Pare down/Power Up ~ A plan to simplify


So strange things are happening over here.

I’ve been lurking on bloggers lately that promote less is morepeople who seem to have found incredible contentment in owning less in their lives. Being that I’m a person of an ever-growing material existence (always seems to be something on the list), I’m finding that’s it’s creating an extreme restlessness in my heart. This seems to have been the Summer of Retail (I say this hanging my head in shame). With my new job and the pursuit of the perfect classroom environment (having given 100% of the gear away in 2000) and the rather shocking “gimmee list” of my preteen/teen girls,  I seem to have spiraled down into the black hole of capitalism and stepped into a pile of shopping mall excrement.

I’m feeling the winds of change whipping through the abode and it’s taking me by surprise.

Can someone who loves stuff reform her ways? I’m not a horder, nor am I an authority in the Spartan Arts. I lie somewhere in the middle of wishing-for-the-small-studio-and-few-needs-deal  and suburban-garage-filled-to-the-limit-hell. The more I read and talk to folks who’ve chosen to drastically pare down, the more I’m beginning to open my eyes to the reality that it may really be the answer…or half of the answer anyway. When there’s less stuff, there’s more room physically and mentally for the good stuff to come in…more chances to be present…

More space

for the


that matter



to the surface.

I know it will take baby steps. I’m prepared to hobble around like a toddler drunken sailor in the quest to avoid materialism and all of its seductive ways. I’ve compiled a little list of things I can do to help on this journey….and of course, there has to be a little logo in the mix. What can I say? I do better when there’s a title involved!








Powering up brings energy to priorities in our lives. Living on Planet Too Much siphons it and leaves you floundering in the seas of excess without a rudder. I understand now what needs to be done and the light switch has been flipped…I’m feeling brave enough to share it here with you after journaling about this heart stirring for weeks. There must be a plan, I realize, and I’m committed to sticking with it for the sake of quality of our family life.

This is what I’m doing this month to keep me honest and reinforce the pare down:

1) Throwin’ out the catalogs of evil that call to me from the mailbox. Do I really need another black dress with just enough detail differentiation that it justifies a spot in the closet? I think not. I’m taking my name off the list here and tossing the ones that lurk in my box without permission.

2) Avoid the mall like there’s a different boy band playing a concert there every day of the week.  I don’t like the mall—never have. It makes me feel like there’s a hole in the bottom of my wallet. It usually brings out the worst in my kidlets and we end up in a tiff and me lecturing about children in third world countries who have ringworm and no shoes.

3) No TV…easy peasy. I don’t watch much anyway and the HGTV that I do partake in is recorded. Come to think of it…HGTV can create the grown-up gimmees...might need to turn it off all together for awhile.

4) One in/One out rule is in effect. If I absolutely require something that has the danger of being redundant, the old one must hit the road, Jack.

5) Give…and give some more. Never has writing a check been such a cheerful experience than this month for the Ameena Project.  Having a plan to save with a mission in mind is really great…so much better than spending money on things I don’t need. 

6) Always have a list when dropping into the scary stores (you know—the “I came in for peanut butter—how did all of this crap get into my cart? And what on earth cost $199?”) Tar-jay Boutique is the usual offender. Yikes. Gotta keep out of that place.

7) Delete the Amazon app. Good grief, I can’t be trusted with that thing! Assuming that the purchase of a used book is good because it only cost $4 in shipping isn’t really a good argument when you’ve got 10 of ’em coming into your mailbox each month. Enough. I hear the library calling.

8) Talk to my kids about my decision to pare down and how they can too. The minivan has become a confessional lately (something about looking at the back of my head prompts them to tell me stuff they otherwise wouldn’t). We talk about absolutely everything. Why not talk candidly about our family’s spending habits and how we can better our lives by paring down? I’m game.

9) Pick up the gratitude journal (again). It really does help to count one’s blessings. They are abundant and amazing—it always brings me back to feeling grateful and purging the unnecessary wants. I need to keep it bed-side so I don’t forget.

10) Begin the room-by-room purge of excess stuff. I just did this in my studio and let me tell you—I was Wonder Woman, satin tights and all! I did have a brief moment of the unbearable lightness of being thing that all the minimalist folks talk about when you shed the unnecessary stuff. In all seriousness, the joy that came in made me want to go deeper…like deeper to the core of the abyss of misfit toys that occupy my world.

* * *

I wonder if any of you have been having the same tugs in a purging stuff state of mind.. I would love to hear what steps you’re taking to head in this direction. I’m beginning to slowly get it and I’m excited (and a little scared too) about what it might mean for our lives.

Happy last couple weeks of summer, Lovelies!



This entry was posted in Confessional Sunday, Fabulous family time, Giving Back, Happiness, MPG stirrings, Pare down/Power Up - steps toward simplifying and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Pare down/Power Up ~ A plan to simplify

  1. Kath says:

    Huh… Me too! So strange. Had a great big garage sale lAst month! Still have a loooong way to go. . But a start. Listed some furniture on Craig’s list even – now I am obsessively checking because I want it all out. Struggling to part w sentimental things like old letters and hand-me-downs tho. Need to walk away from the tele more frequently, but getting a bit better. Hey, it’s a start! Right?! Xox

  2. I am so with you on this!
    Ever since doing my “aWEARness Project” with the Mocha Club (where I got rid of everything in my closet but 35 things to wear for this next year), it has been amazingly freeing! I don’t have much to choose from and I love it (most of the time). Even my 9 year old daughter said as she was staring into her closet, frustrated that she couldn’t decide on what to wear said, “I have too many clothes! I need you to just pick 35 things for me too!” <–how sad is that?! My kids have way too much stuff.
    Plus, part of the project is that if I have to replace something it has to be from a company that supports a cause/non-profit/fair trade. It has really made me think before I buy. I can actually walk into TJ Maxx or any clothing store for that matter and have absolutely no desire to buy anything. It's kinda crazy.
    Also, when we moved, I was very intentional about only packing what I actually needed or used. I have empty kitchen cabinets in this new house because i realized I didn't need my 8 mixing bowls or 20 mugs. I'm still far from where I want to be, but at least now I really do understand how "less is more"… more joy, more time, and less stress.

  3. Erin says:

    Thank you SO much for the seamless paper, material, frames & camera bag. While you pared down, you gave my son an incredible gift to help him along with his photography project for school and for that…we are so grateful!

  4. Nicole says:

    Lara, I love your list! We have been focused on paring down for several years as well. Like anything else, habits take a while to form. . . for us, living in New Zealand – where life is a bit more simple, and we were on a very tight budget – did the trick. Now we try to keep our life the same way. The kids know that if they give away clothes they don’t need, it means someone else gets to wear it who may not get new clothes very often. After the holiday “haul” they pick what they like best and the rest goes away – immediately. They value the things they have when there is less clutter in their lives. Experiences are better than stuff, any day!

  5. Pingback: Weekend Reads | Becoming Minimalist

  6. sally says:

    I am doing a “no new clothes” year this year! Over halfway now and I have not bought myself any new or used clothes/underwear/shoes/accessories. I have been given a few used items, and I have donated some items. Enjoying using what I have (decreasing the dollars per wear value for each piece). I could still reduce my wardrobe further.

  7. Aubrey says:

    Lara, I just loved this post. I found it via Becoming Minimalist and I couldn’t agree more. What I love about minimalism and living simply is not only does owning fewer possessions (though I once read a quote that said if you can’t fix it or use it then it owns you- I liked that quote) make room for the good stuff but it lets that stuff breathe. I think our society fears white space so much. White space in our homes and in our minds lets what’s important shine, it brings focus and drowns out the unimportant.

    This was a lovely post to read. I would be curious what other bloggers you have found that promote less is more. I have been trying to find more like minded folk in that arena. :)

    Cheers to ya, Aubrey

  8. Terri says:

    Hi Lara, I found you from Becoming Minimalist. What a beautiful blog you’ve got going here! I’ve been doing the paring down thing for over a year now (with still a long way to go) and totally agree with you- it’s a fabulous feeling to watch things leave the house, never to return! Like you, I have curbed the trips to Tarjay and try to stay away from the Kindle store app. I’ve sold quite a few things on craigslist, but sometimes that is more trouble than it’s worth. Seems like you have to kiss a lot of weirdo frogs before the prince shows up. Best wishes to you as you start down the minimalist road!

  9. Susan H says:

    Uh oh, how does this fit with your lovely decorations and ironstone jugs collection? I also love books, so have been purging and only keeping those that I really have a use for and limit them to the best ones on any subject. How many simplify books does a person really need anyways? I have found that unless you have some big ticket items, yard sales can be more trouble than they are worth! Some places will give you a tax deductible receipt for your donations. Thank you for your personal insights. Keep on keeping on!

  10. Laura says:

    Hi Lara. I just came across this post after I followed a link from the Becoming Minimalist site. Like you, I have been reading many minimalist blogs for about 3 months now and becoming increasingly intrigued and excited about the prospect of having less stuff in my life! I could have written your post! I have a list that looks a lot like the one you posted and I am on my way with the house decluttering although it wont be fast. I also have a husband and two girls, ages 11 and 8, and need to find ways to discuss more of these ideas with them. I’m less worried about husband, and more concerned that my packrat children will have no desire to participate in this plan. But I guess that setting an example is as important as anything else I could do. I’ve book marked your site and will check back on your progress as I make my own.

  11. Joy Wolff says:

    I came home from a great vacation in June And started giving away or throwing away 21 things a day. (A feng Shui number). Watch out. Within 1 month of this discipline, we decided to move out of our 15 yr old home… Clearing space clears energy and catalysts into change. House not sold yet… But we r on our way to major minimalization! Exciting but scary too!!

  12. larablair says:

    I’ve heard that can happen! Wow–good for you, Joy. I hope to one day take a look around and realize there’s too much space and we can downsize. Best to you–Lara

  13. larablair says:

    Hey, Laura! My girls are 12 and 13 and like you, I’m having a time controlling all of the stuff that comes into the house. In fact, I don’t seem to have control at the moment! I would love to hear from you again if you discover anything that seems to work strategy-wise, as we seem to be in the same place in our journey. Best to you! Lara

  14. larablair says:

    I know! My decor is not supporting my quest, is it?! I did a massive sweep this weekend of the surfaces and they are clear. Feels so much better. I, too, have acquired quite the simplify book library–kind of ironic, isn’t it? I was going to do yet another yard sale and just opted to call the Arc (they are a great nonprofit in our area) and they came and took everything. Felt great–will definitely do it again. Good luck in your journey—thank you for commenting on mine. Best to you, Susan!

  15. larablair says:

    Hey, Terri!
    Thank you for your kind words. My blog seems to be evolving (yet again)…it seems that paring down and sharing my journey is the important thing right now. It keeps me honest anyway :) I agree about the Craig’s list thing—don’t have time to sit and wait for people to show up. I’ve been donating a lot this summer and it feels really good. Keep me posted as to how things are going on your end. Best to you–Lara

  16. larablair says:

    Love, love your blog, Aubrey—really. I’m glad you found me. Becoming Minimalist has been somewhat of a lifeline for me lately–keeping me focused, so I’m thrilled he linked it up. I will enjoy watching your journey from afar. You are living the Wanderlust Dream, girl! How fantastic. Cheers to you as well~ Lara

  17. larablair says:

    I could reduce by a lot, Sally. Do you have any tricks to the methodology of purging clothes? This seems to be the hardest part for me. I did put a small box of stuff I couldn’t seem to part with up in the attic—I will donate in a year without looking inside if it’s still lurking up there. :) Good luck in your journey! Best to you- Lara

  18. larablair says:

    Roomie!!! Sent you an email. Great to hear from you, Nic. ox

  19. Letty A says:

    I had a nearly spiritual experience myself with paring down this week-end. Loaded up a shopping cart of “stuff” to be donated from my kitchen and closet, walked the cart in the hot August sun 2 blocks to the Goodwill donation store and walked home a million pounds lighter!

  20. pamela white says:

    Girl I am right there with you this summer! TARGET – is like a black hole – it always sucks me in! I have however managed to stay away this summer and we have been paring down as well. I decided to spend and save that money to DO things and not OWN them. Like going on my Epic concert roadtrip in the fall…also have made sure instead of the time I used to spend out and about browsing I am now creating, writing and reading instead. It has been amazing ! My hubby has even joined in and started getting rid of stuff – he has always been a pack rat and I am so pleasantly surprised. He even said the other day we should cut off the cable! I almost died! Can’t wait to hear about your classroom adventures! Big Hugs!

  21. Kaylin Lydia says:

    You highlight some excellent points! Since coming to a more peaceful and joyful place in my life, I feel as if minimalism has become a natural extension to furthering these good feelings. I no longer need the distractions any more. These past two years, I have edited by different zones in my apartment (bookshelf, office, crazy garage shelf that holds everything we own etc…). Finding a new purpose for my stuff has helped me feel motivated to get rid of the stuff! I sell and donate a lot – even put not-fit-for-thriftstore things up for free on freecycle or craigslist. Hello bottle of unused organic tahini. My wardrobe was really the last frontier – I told myself I would get rid of anything I could not recall wearing. Then, I turned every hangar in my apartment the opposite direction. As I wear the items, I return the hangar to the “right side”. This was enlightening to me! Over the course of year, I saw that I was wearing way less than half of my wardrobe! Whoa! Now I am down to a large dresser and a small closet worth of clothes. This is pretty good for me! : ) I am on a mission to have an entire wardrobe worth of clothes that are comfortable and look good on me so I am way more particular about the items I “welcome” into my closet. Best of luck in your new path to simplifying!

  22. larablair says:

    I, too, have done the turned hanger thing! It was enlightening for me too….kinda shocking, actually. I love that you made sure that spendy Tahini made it into good hands (I have one paying rent in my cabinet as I write this). I think you’re right–it’s about not being distracted anymore. The editing creates room and the filling of that space with worthy experiences is up to us. Here’s to both of our journeys! Best-Lara

  23. larablair says:

    Way to go, Pam! How cool your hub is in on it too. I need to hear more about this EPIC concert roadtrip. You must be excited. Miss you! ox L

  24. larablair says:

    I totally agree–it’s really a great feeling of lightening up and filling up on the important stuff, isn’t it? Good for you, Letty! I think the experience of pushing the gear (great metaphor for what it does to our lives, btw) was brilliant…must have felt great.
    Best to you– Lara

  25. Pingback: Recent Reads | Rainer Life

  26. Stumbled on it says:

    Choosing to stay anon…

    I see that’s its list of women who have commented on our blog.. Male here.. And lil over 4 decades of living…

    cant’t agree more on your list..
    Have been going thru this minimalist bent … I gotta have this..syndrome..
    Have been a the mini all stage to yo yo back.. And then Back again..
    Kinda gets difficult every time to pare down.. The muck just accumulates..

    What does one do with , 5 sims cards all working.. 5 phones, iPhone blackberry, samsung android, nokia Symbian and samsung bada + a few older ones ..
    A few tablets.. One in each OS.. Name it..
    All working in good well maintained condition.. ?????

    You are right..pared down, power up..

    Reality.. Less is more.. On the scale of pure experience.
    Definitely less stress, more to ponder.. A lot more smiles.. And sometimes it feels not to care..
    Just let go.. ease up..

    Well done.. Hope you get to the tree of life.. That thrives on essentials…
    All the best..

  27. larablair says:

    You didn’t need to be anonymous 😉 I love it when men visit my site! It’s refreshing.

    I totally hear you on the technology stuff…we have so many pieces of electronics in different states of working that it drives me crazy. I yo-yo too…but there is always time to get yourself back on track. Paring down is HARD! I won’t lie. I’ve been trying to get a hold of it for years—but the commitment is there now and it wasn’t 100% before. Baby steps, friend…baby steps 😉

    So glad you stopped by the blog. Thank you! Here’s to us both figuring this Less is More thing out.

Comments are closed.