Saturday, November 30, 2019

Simplify Eating Healthy

Why is it that when we’re short on time, eating well is one of the first things we sacrifice? Healthy food is so important for maintaining energy, optimal brain function, mood, weight, and managing or preventing disease. Eating nutrient-dense food is literally the thing that keeps us going.
So to keep healthy eating from falling off our radars when we get busy, here are my top tips. I’ve put them in order based on how much of the effort you have to contribute yourself, from you doing all the work to someone else doing most of the work. That way, you can determine what best fits your time allotment and budget.
  • DIY Weekly Meal Prep
  • Use someone else's free meal prep plan
  • Use a cookbook to create a healthy meal plan
  • Paid meal plans
  • Paid meal prep kits
  • Heat-and-eat meal services
DIY weekly meal prep (free)
If you know how to make healthy meals and enjoy cooking, then pick a day every week and make your meals in bulk.
Lots of people cringe at the thought of reheated food. But some things taste just as good or better as leftovers. If you need to freeze leftovers, it should be done within 3-4 days. Cool food rapidly by dividing it into smaller containers. Don’t ever keep items at room temperature for longer than two hours, and don’t thaw foods by leaving them on the counter. Thawing should happen in the fridge and is often not necessary before heating up a meal.
Reheat only what you plan to eat in one sitting, and make certain the temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can reheat food multiple times, but each time the taste and quality will degrade.

Use someone else’s free meal prep plan (free)

There are a bunch of free meal plans out there on various blogs and cooking magazine websites. Unfortunately, many are centered around food that is tasty and easy, but not necessarily healthy. I tried to weed those out and focus on a few that were actually healthy.


EatingWell has free recipes for just about any type of diet out there, from low-cholesterol to gluten-free to vegan. What I really like is that they include information about the macronutrients and calories for each meal. They also have 7, 14, and 30-day meal plans, and plans based on your diet and how many calories you should have each day to maintain or lose weight. If you want to lose weight, I recommend using a free calculator to estimate how many calories you should be eating to be at your ideal weight. Don’t go below 1200-1300 calories, which is the average BMR for many people (BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate: the minimum number of calories your body needs to keep functions going like breathing, and fueling your brain).
Then pick out your meal plan of choice, make your shopping list and prep as much as you can in advance. You can check out EatingWell’s meal plans here. Don’t forget to check out their other recipes, too!


This blog is all about living on a budget, and the author feeds her family of three on $65 per week (or less). She includes a meal plan, shopping list, and cost of all items. Be sure to read the comments for additional suggestions.


While this website has a paid smoothie kit delivery program, they also have free smoothie recipes on their page. The recipes have interesting combinations I haven’t encountered before, like Citrus Plum-a-tillo (with tomatillos) and Carrot Rhubarb Date. With 64 pages of recipes at 15 recipes per page, that should keep anyone amused with free smoothie ideas for a long time!

Use a cookbook to create a healthy meal plan

Over the long term, using a cookbook (or even a few of them) is often more cost-effective than a subscription meal plan. You buy your recipes once, and then you mix them up as you please. The trick to doing this in a healthy way is making certain you are choosing recipes based on nutrient value, not just flavor. It’s even fine to schedule in “treats” like desserts—life can’t be all about restriction.


I want to insert a caveat here that although some people swear by a raw-food diet, in my opinion, there is not enough scientific evidence to support its health claims as being the best, healthiest diet ever, and the one everyone should eat. Nonetheless, I love eating raw meals as part of my diet, because they are some of the least processed foods, so often every ingredient has a purpose toward health. The recipes people come up with are pretty amazing, too. This author has 12 recipe books about raw food, with items that leave you scratching your head (how can this be raw?) like caramel apple pie, lasagna, and buckwheat biscuits. If you really want to go fully raw, I recommend going through a transition phase as most people find their digestive systems are unhappy with a complete change from a cooked to raw food diet. Luckily, she has a cookbook for that too.


When I’m trying to pack in a bunch of nutrients in a hurry, smoothies are my go-to meal. The problem is, some smoothies aren’t that filling—people will have a smoothie and have other food with it, which means they may be increasing their nutrition, but also their calorie intake. This is only a good thing if you need to gain weight; otherwise, a 300-500 calorie smoothie is enough to have as its own meal. If you’re going to do things this way (smoothie plus meal), then I recommend drinking the smoothie first, and then you’ll have less room for the other (potentially less healthy) food.
So the trick is to create a nutrient-dense smoothie that will make you feel full but is also calorically dilute. This plan claims to do all that, using real foods you can pick up inexpensively at the grocery store. While it’s marketed as a weight loss plan, 36 smoothie recipes are included, which you use for two meals per day and then eat regular food for your third meal. So it’s kind of like Weight Watchers, but without all the chemical-laden, processed ingredients. Plus, you only pay once to get the recipes, and it comes with a money-back guarantee.

Paid meal plans

Sometimes you have to put in a little money to save yourself some time and effort. If it’s in your budget, it’s often worth it, and may also save you money in the long run, because you’ll be buying fewer foods that you don’t eat.


This meal plan has a free 14-day trial, and after that, it only costs $5 per month. The plan was developed by a mom who is budget-conscious and wants to feed her family simple, healthy meals. You get printables for the recipes and shopping list, so you don’t even have to worry about writing your own list. They also have a gluten-free version of the plan.


This place did a comprehensive job of collecting recipes for different types of dietary needs. They have clean eating, diabetic, Mediterranean, heart-healthy, and more. They collaborated with many different recipe makers and even partnered with food delivery services, so you might not even have to go to the store to get what you need. They also have a 14-day free trial, so you can test whether this level of planning is helpful for you.

Paid meal prep kits

Sometimes, even the prep work of meals takes too much out of you. In this case, consider a service where the ingredients are already prepped—you have exactly the correct amount of each ingredient, often including spices. You just have to follow the recipe to create the meal, which often takes 30 minutes or less. If you hate chopping vegetables and measuring ingredients, but don’t mind assembling and cooking, then these meal delivery services could work for you. Just keep in mind they usually deliver a weeks’ worth at a time, so you’ll need to clear out space in your fridge and/or freezer.


These meal prep kits are said to have 30 minutes or less of prep time from box to table, with little or no prep of the ingredients required. Dietitians review and approve all the meals, and they’re always adding new recipes. Shipping is $6.99 per box. You can skip, pause, or cancel at any time. Right now (2/27/19), they are offering $80 off your first four boxes.
As a bonus, in their recipe archive, they list free recipes, so you can try some of their meals for yourself.


Green Chef is a great option because it caters to just about everyone. They offer meal plans for omnivores, paleo, pescatarians, vegans, vegetarians, keto, paleo, and gluten-free. They’re the only one out there I found that offers so many choices. You can even choose a family plan for 3-4 people.
They also offer GMO-free foods, and were the first company in their category to become certified organic by the USDA. Green Chef also has a focus on sustainability, by choosing suppliers who “reinvest” in the environment and use sustainable packaging. So you’re probably not going to find anything grown by a Monsanto farmer on their menu.
Shipping is only $6.99 per box, and they are currently (as of 2/27/19) offering $50 off your first order.

Heat-and-eat meal services

Some days, I really wish I had a subscription to one of these meal services because I’m just too tired to do anything other than eat a banana and peanut butter. Maybe I’ll get the chance to try one someday.
The idea of a freshly prepared meal free of preservatives and chemicals that you just have to stick in the oven or microwave sounds fabulous. It’s like having a personal chef in your fridge.

VEESTRO ($9.90 - $11.70 PER MEAL)

Being a vegan, this is one of my favorites for many reasons:
  • 100% plant-based
  • The packaging is all compostable and recyclable
  • Every meal is marked with allergens, and there are soy-free and gluten-free choices
  • 96% of ingredients are organic
  • No preservatives
  • You can switch out meals
  • Free shipping
  • They currently (as of 2/27/19) have a 25% discount off your first order with the code FROZEN


Registered Dietitians customize these meal plans based on your personal health needs. Plus, the company is headed by a doctor who is a medical weight loss specialist. They even differentiate plans for men and women, because we do eat differently and have different nutritional needs. Everything arrives ready for you to heat up.
Right now (2/27/19) they have 25% off and free shipping (normally $19.95) on your first week on their regular plans.
Their “Balance” program, which is A La Carte, has its own discounts, with 10% off and free shipping on the first order. All orders over $99 come with free shipping as well. With this plan, there are no minimum purchase requirements and you can re-order whenever you feel like it.

What’s your favorite healthy meal method?

This is a no-judgment zone. I’m sure there are plenty of people in the world who would look down on someone for admitting they need help to provide healthy meals to themselves or their families. But I’m not one of them. Heck, if I had the money to do it, I would probably pay a personal chef to make all my meals and deliver them hot to my door. I love to cook, but everyone needs some assistance once in a while!
How do you make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need? I’d love to hear your feedback, and if you’ve tried any of these services, let me know in the comments.

11 Tips for How To Be Happy With Yourself

If you want to be successful, feel good about your life, and have excellent relationships, you have to start on the inside. Achieving goals so that you feel better about yourself is working backward.
Change comes from within, and if you don’t love yourself, then nothing you do on the outside of your life will change that, and your relationships will never feel quite right. This post is all about being happy with yourself. Here are the 11 tip topics:
  1. Self-acceptance
  2. Gratitude
  3. Sing your own praises
  4. Believe you are worthy
  5. Listen to and honor your body and heart
  6. Smile and breathe
  7. Give to others
  8. Reduce stress
  9. Spend time with happy, encouraging people
  10. Don't compromise your values
  11. Forgiveness

    1. Self-acceptance

No matter where you are in your self-improvement journey, you have to remember that it is, in fact, a journey, not a destination. You will probably never be perfect in every way that you hope. It’s human nature to constantly strive for more. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to look at who we are and what we have, and assess it as not good enough.
That’s why millionaires and billionaires keep amassing more fortune when they could easily retire.
It’s why supermodels and professional athletes are still searching for the perfect workout or diet that will make them look or perform even better.
It’s important to have goals. People shouldn’t be stagnant; forward progress is essential. But the person you are right now is enough. You are good enough right at this moment, and I can prove it. Because the present you is working on improvement; that means you are already smart, and determined, and powerful.

2. Gratitude

I’ve touched on this in previous posts and a lot on my Instagram account. A daily gratitude practice is a key to being happier, and also of accepting what is in the present time.
Be thankful for even the smallest good things that happen, and try to find the silver lining in any situation. Maybe rain is messing up your commute, but you see a rainbow. Or the grocery store is crowded, but you run into an old friend there.
You can also be grateful for things that didn’t happen—for example, with my chronic illness, I express gratitude for each day that my symptoms don’t prevent me from accomplishing things.
Maybe it seems trivial to find gratitude in things that are small or “normal.” We feel like something has to be a major event to be celebrated. But that just isn’t the case. If you can’t even appreciate what you already have, then what’s to say the bigger things won’t be taken for granted as well?
Gratitude evokes happiness. There is no reason to defer gratitude and the joy it brings into your life.

3. Sing your own praises

So maybe you need to lose some weight, or you aren’t the best public speaker, or you leave your socks on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper. So what? You are still a good person, who has many positive attributes.
Instead of nitpicking at yourself, recognize your inner and outer beauty. Learn to say “thank you” and really mean it when someone gives you a compliment, instead of protesting and taking an opportunity to sound self-effacing and self-critical. Start living in a mindset that is internally complimentary.
If you struggle with this, ask the people who love you to help you recognize your best qualities. Take the answers they give you as gifts. Don’t protest against them; instead, try to see yourself through their loving eyes.

4. Believe you are worthy

You are worthy of love, acceptance, and good fortune. Today, right now. Just as you are.
Believe it, and project it out into the world. Make it your mantra. Repeat it out loud to your reflection in the mirror. Make it your screen saver. Put it on your fridge. Treat others this way as well, as it will only improve the chances of you receiving the respect and happiness you deserve.

5. Listen to and honor your body and heart

In this chaotic world that we live in, most of us are in a constant state of reaction. We have too much external stimulation, and it tends to drown out the signals we receive from our body or heart.
By the time we hear these signals, they are often more like fire alarms, screeching in displeasure. Then, rather than responding to a request, we must put out a fire and rebuild ourselves.
The only way to be better at this is to make time for it. You can meditate, or simply sit quietly. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” “What do I want?” “What do I need?” “How would my ideal life look?”
After many years of ignoring the warning bells, it may take some time to understand your true needs. But once you do, expect some strong emotions to flow. This is a natural part of the process and one that should be embraced.

6. Smile and breathe

In elementary school, I had a friend who was a good artist. I would sit and watch her draw these amazing things, fascinated by her imagination and skill. She told me once (at the ripe old age of eight) that she smiled while drawing because it made her drawings better.
There is so much wisdom to that principle that can be applied to all aspects of life. Give it a try. And if you don’t feel like smiling under present circumstances, conjure something that makes you smile—a happy memory, listening to uplifting music, or looking at funny pictures. Whatever does the trick.
As for breathing, a yoga instructor was quoted once for saying that she thought people loved her class so much because it was the only time all day that they got to just sit and breathe. Stress changes our breathing and even makes us hold our breath sometimes.
When I do coaching sessions, or anytime I’m talking to someone and sense they’re anxious, I ask them to stop and take a couple of deep breaths before they start talking. You’d be amazed at how many people thank me for doing this because they didn’t realize how tense they were until those breaths released the tension.

7. Give to others

Research shows that charity work improves the health and well-being of the volunteers. If you haven’t done volunteer work, it’s hard to describe the feelings of joy it brings. Not only that but if you are feeling low and unworthy, this is a great way to remind yourself how helpful and useful you are.
You don’t have to participate in organized charity work to reap the benefits, though. Any giving done without the expectation of something in return will produce similar effects. So as you go through your day, stop, and offer help whenever you can.

8. Reduce stress

Easier said than done, right? But a stressed-out person is more likely to be depressed and have physical manifestations of stress. That stress will creep into all aspects of your life, not just the area that caused stress in the first place. There’s nothing like a nervous breakdown to cause a blow to your self-esteem. Make it a priority to find and use a stress management technique that works for you.

9. Spend time with happy, encouraging people

You probably already have a voice inside your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough. Why amplify that by surrounding yourself with people who reinforce that belief? There’s science behind this idea, too; people are happier and more successful when they associate with happy, successful people. And to level up your life, there’s nothing better than finding mentors who have already reached the goals you want to achieve for yourself.

10. Don’t compromise your values

For a few years, I felt like I had to compromise my personal ethics at work. I’m not sure I could say they were doing anything outright illegal, but many of the choices made by the people in charge were about putting money first or giving the most powerful people in the company what they wanted while disregarding the needs of other employees or our patients. Meanwhile, I took the job because I wanted to help people and be an advocate for the rights of the patients we served. I tried for a long time to make it work but felt myself having to compromise more often.
When it got to the point that I was starting to lose touch with who I was, I became angry most of the time. I got into a lot of arguments at work, and a tense situation became even worse. My physical and mental health suffered immensely from living in this dichotomy until I decided I would rather be poor than work there (or any similar job) ever again, no matter how much they paid me. That’s when I saved up a years’ worth of expenses and quit my job.
I’m finally getting back to being “me,” and only doing things that align with my values. Don’t make the same mistake I did—catch yourself before it gets too far, or find a way to get out.

11. Forgiveness

Everyone makes mistakes. Imperfection is part of the human condition. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, just that you’re human.
Instead of berating yourself for mistakes made, look more objectively at what happened. Ask yourself what you learned from it, and what you can do differently in the future.
Then accept this opportunity with gratitude, and move on.

Friday, November 29, 2019

How to Stop Buying Stuff You Don't Need

Most people own more than they need. Yet they keep buying anyway. Owning too much is costly, and not just in financial terms. Here are ways to stop buying things you don’t need. Here’s a quick run-down of the topics.
  • Take inventory of what you already have
  • Express gratitude for what you own
  • Buy only what you need right now
  • Calculate your cost to buy something in hours worked
  • Spend money on quality over quantity
  • Stop thinking of shopping as a fun activity
  • Need less

First, know what you already have

How many times have you bought an ingredient for a recipe at the grocery store, only to come home and realize you already had it? Or how about buying a replacement for something you were certain was lost, then finding it a few months later?
Most people don’t know how much they have unless they have to pack it up to move. Then it seems like the contents of their drawers, cabinets, and closets are bottomless pits that take forever to empty. Look back at my story about my friends Rene and Jim from when they moved from a house to an RV. They thought they’d gotten rid of most of their stuff—until they came to pick up the remainder with the largest U-Haul you can rent, and it didn’t all fit.
So first, use my 5-step decluttering system to clear out the excess, then take note of what you have already.

Be grateful for what you have now

At the risk of sounding like your mother, “There are starving children in Africa.” So appreciate what you already own, rather than thinking you need something better. You may not have everything you want or even everything you need. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be thankful for what you do have. Honor it for how it serves you, and find a place of contentment that exists outside of your possessions.
How do you do this? Take the time each day to find three things to be grateful for. Write them down, say them out loud, or just close your eyes and think. They don’t have to be big things; you can be glad that a stoplight turned green, or that a stranger smiled at you. For some people, waking up each day is enough to be thankful for. If you have trouble, think globally. Some examples are “I’m thankful to live in an age that has plumbing and electricity,” or “I’m grateful that penicillin was discovered.” You can even express gratitude for the same thing from one day to the next.

And as in the examples above, you don't have to just be grateful for the stuff you own. Experiencing more gratitude in any area of your life will spill over to other areas. Gratitude increases happiness, and happiness promotes feelings of contentment. If you're content, you won't feel like you need to buy things to improve your life.

Figure out what you need right now, and only buy that

If you’ve ever seen an ad for something on sale and suddenly “realized” that you need it even though you never saw it before, you’re probably a victim of marketing. Coming up with a reason to buy something because you saw it in the store does not equate to having a need for it. This is a sneaky type of impulse buying that occurs when marketing nudges us in that direction.
So plan out your shopping trips. For groceries, plan your meals for the week and then look in the fridge and cabinets. Write down the ingredients you don’t already have and buy only those. You’re protecting both your wallet and waistline that way.
For items other than food, research the heck out of things before you even step into a store. First of all, determine whether you really need it. If it’s a big purchase ($100 or whatever amount you decide), I recommend a purchase pause. Wait at least 24 hours (I prefer a week or a month) before buying. If you haven’t needed it during the pause, you probably don’t need it at all.
If you decide it’s a necessary purchase, go through the internet and look at product options. Don’t just buy the first one you see. Check features, benefits, and prices. Look for coupons or other discounts. If buying online, figure tax and shipping into the total cost as well. If in-person, call the store before you go to make certain it’s in stock.
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, don’t settle for a lesser product. Wait. You will find it or discover that you didn’t actually need it.

Consider how many hours you’ll have to work to pay for something

What’s your hourly rate? Will it take you three hours of work to purchase dinner out? A week’s pay to buy that dress? It’s not so appealing when you think of how much time you’ll have to slave away at your job to buy something. I’m sure you have to work hard for your money. Make certain what you’re spending it on is worth it.
Also, take into account that your investment of time and money into ownership doesn’t end when you buy it. What will it cost you to store, use, and maintain what you bought? Will it take time, money, and space away from something (or someone) else that is more important?
If you’re using credit to buy something, add interest and fees to your cost in labor to pay for it. When you buy something with a credit card or a loan, you are toiling away to pay for something you don’t even own yet.
Lastly, consider the cost of lost opportunity. You spent this money, so you can no longer invest it to create revenue through interest or dividends. Will this affect your retirement or other savings goals?

Buy quality now, save money later

It’s a myth that buying the cheaper item saves you money in the long run. The adage “You get what you pay for” is often true, especially these days. Manufacturers are spitting out items faster than ever, while cutting down on quality control. If you’re thinking that inkjet printer you bought is wearing out faster than its predecessor, you’re right. Planned obsolescence infringes into more places all the time, from clothing to electronics, even to houses.
So it’s better to save up more now for something of higher quality. Otherwise, when you’ve bought three of the lesser quality over the same period, you’ve lost out.
Sometimes, you just won’t find something good in what’s offered new. That’s why I buy most of my clothes used at thrift stores. You can find high-quality used items that are made better than what's available at your local fast-fashion retail chain, and for cheaper as well!

Stop viewing shopping as something fun to do

Some people claim to like or even love to shop. But it probably isn’t the shopping they love. Maybe they enjoy the socializing that happens when they go with people they like to the shops. Or if they’re socially isolated, maybe interactions with the store clerks are pleasurable because they’re lonely. Maybe they’re bored, or nervous, or stressed out, and are using “retail therapy” to feel better.
Or maybe the enjoyment is the temporary high they get from spending money, the sense of satisfaction you receive from making the purchase itself. But it can be a hard fall when you need that money for something else and it’s no longer available.
There are many better ways to spend time with friends, or by yourself, without shopping.
  • Cook a meal together at home
  • Go for a walk or hike
  • Watch reruns of your favorite show
  • Read a book
  • Just sit and talk

Need less

We all have a baseline of necessities required to function in our daily lives. But most of us overestimate how much we actually need to get by. Over the years, I’ve stopped spending money on many things that I used to use on autopilot, thinking that I needed them. As I get older and wiser, that list of “what I need” gets smaller all the time.
I’m sure if you think hard enough, you can find something you’re buying that you don’t need. I wrote an article a while back called 13 Things to Stop Buying to Save Money. The article may inspire you with more ideas.

Final thoughts on buying stuff you don’t need

It’s probably been a long, slippery slope of consumerism to get to where you are now. I’ll advise as I always do with being more minimalist: it’s ok to go slowly. Focus on something small—like resisting buying that extra bag of chips at the store. Work your way up from there.
Eventually, you will get to a place of equilibrium. You will know when you’ve reached that point. Until then, count each small step as a win.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

How To Get Rid Of Your Stuff (And Why It's So Hard)

You want to declutter. It’s obvious you have more stuff than you need. You could use some extra money. But you are having trouble parting with your stuff. Why is it so hard?
In this article, I’m going to review the reasons why letting go of stuff is so difficult, and how to deal with it. Hopefully, by the end you will have the tools you need to become a lighter, happier person.

Why it’s so hard to get rid of stuff

We get emotionally attached to our things. The strongest emotions that usually create these attachments are love, fear, guilt, and loneliness. Let’s delve into each of those.


Here are some reasons why love may be the attachment that prevents you from letting go of possessions:
  • Someone you love gave it to you (example: the last pair of shoes your grandmother bought for you before she passed away)
  • You have a fond memory of using the item (example: the apron you wore while baking cookies with your child while they were growing up, or the dress you wore when your spouse proposed)
  • You received or bought it on a happy or special occasion (example: a souvenir from your favorite vacation)
  • It reminds you of what you used to be (example: the high school or college sports jersey you wore when you won the championships)


Fear is a very powerful emotion; in some instances, it has more sway over us than love. Here are fear-based reasons you keep things:
  • You’re afraid of wasting money (example: you bought an expensive kitchen appliance, and if you don’t keep it you haven’t gotten your money’s worth)
  • You’re afraid of losing money (example: You believe that the piece of china you bought at a garage sale a few years ago is worth a lot of money. You haven’t had a chance to appraise it and you’re afraid that if you sell it now or give it away, you’ll have lost out on a big payday.)
  • Fear of needing it later but not having it (example: you bought a specialized gadget that you never use, but if you don’t keep it you’re not sure you’ll be able to buy it again)
  • If you give it away, you’re giving up on who you want to be (example: You bought a paint set because you imagine yourself creating beautiful paintings. It’s been collecting dust for months.)


I think guilt affects most people more than they’d like to admit. Here are guilt-related reasons to hold on to things:
  • Feeling unloyal (example: Aunt Jean gave you an ugly sweater, and even though you don’t like it, you feel guilty for not keeping it)
  • Being wasteful (example: You can’t imagine anyone else wanting your half-eaten box of cookies, but you’re trying to go on a diet and you really want to get rid of them. How can you when there are starving people in the world?)
  • Shame over a decision (example: You bought a house and you can’t afford the payments. You’re drowning in debt but you’d be so embarrassed if you had to admit to family and friends that you need to sell it.)


If you can’t relate to this one, you may be surprised to hear it. But some people actually keep stuff around because it helps fill the void created by human companionship. Here are some loneliness-related reasons one keeps their stuff:
  • Empty-nester (Your kids moved out. They say they don’t want any of the stuff they left behind, but you keep it around just in case they change their minds — or decide to move back in.)
  • Breakup or divorce (Your significant other moved out, and you’re heartbroken. You surround yourself with the memorabilia of your relationship.)
  • Death (Your loved one passed away, and even though it’s painful to see their belongings, it also brings comfort.)
  • Geographical isolation (You’re far away from friends and family, so you hold on to your possessions to keep you company.)
  • Times past (You have a museum of the “good old days” in your house because your life is nothing like that now, and you miss it.)

Identifying the feelings associated with an item

It’s important to know why you can’t release something from your life because otherwise, you will probably keep struggling with it. Which of the statements above resonate with you when you think of something you have a hard time letting go of? What strong emotions do you feel when you think of giving away, selling, or throwing away something?
Once you identify the emotion, here are some things I want to share with you that may help you accept it and feel better:
  • Whatever you’re feeling is a normal response. You are not alone in having these feelings (otherwise how would I be able to list them in this article?). Furthermore, you have a right to be emotionally attached to something for some reason. So don’t beat yourself up further for having trouble letting go of your stuff, and don’t let others belittle you because they don’t have the same attachment you do.
  • I am not going to force you or shame you into getting rid of everything all at once. Do it at your own pace when you’re ready.
  • It’s okay to need and ask for help. If you feel your emotions run deeper than just wanting to hang on to stuff, get the support of a friend, loved one, or counselor.
I’m going to relate a brief story to you that may help inspire you, and then we’ll move on to addressing your own feelings.
At age 75, my mother lived alone in a remote area in the Catskill Mountains in New York. She had cancer and many side effects from both the disease and the treatment. Swollen legs led to difficulty walking, falls, and becoming bedridden. She lost nearly half her body weight in less than six months. Then she had a blood clot, and then a hernia with a bowel obstruction.
Meanwhile, she forbade family from telling her children (my brother and me) what was going on. We were on the west coast, so we had only filtered information from her and other relatives who lived nearby. Part of her secrecy was from the onset of dementia. The other part was likely fear that she would become dependent on others. Deep down, I think she knew she couldn’t live by herself any longer.
But she loved her home. She went through great expense to buy and then renovate it. She went through more expense to ship all of her stuff across the country, including a car that was probably worth less than she paid for transport. And once she settled in, she accumulated more and more things to fill her home.
With the last emergency, Ryan and I rushed to the east coast through the snow to be with her. We fully expected to stay with her in that place for the rest of her life, because she was always so adamant that she would rather die than leave her house and all her things. So we slept on her floor in the living room and contemplated selling our RV, because we care more about her than our stuff.
But then something interesting happened. Mom realized she had become a captive of that place. She was isolated and alone. She had more expenses than she could afford. She had clothes she’d never worn, and knick-knacks that still had the price tags on them. Clinging to her home and possessions had nearly killed her. Not only that, but she had a four-year-old grandson she’d never even met because the bills related to her house kept her from traveling.
So she let us sell some of her things to get her finances right. She gave away a bunch of items, too. She was even ready to sell the house.
Since then she traveled across the country in the comfort of our RV. She got to spend time with her grandkids and be part of their lives. We traveled together for a while, while still going back frequently to San Francisco so she could receive top-notch medical care and see my brother and his family. Meanwhile, she has my husband and me with her every day. We do activities together, eat meals together, and keep each other company. She isn’t alone and always has the help she needs. As a bonus, she got to experience places she’d never been before, while still having her own space and her most important items. And the best part is she is healthier and happier.
Letting go of her stuff made room for love and fulfilling experiences she would never have if she chose to continue holding on tightly to her possessions.
I helped mom reach this realization, and I did it by discussing the tips mentioned in this article. If she can choose a new way of life at age 75, then I have hope that anyone can do it.

Addressing emotions and letting go

Now comes the hard part. But you can do this. Take a deep breath, read on, and allow for the possibilities for your future.


Letting go of items does not equate to loving someone any less. Things are inanimate objects. They can’t love you back. You are not giving away love, you are giving away things.
Not only that but getting rid of items that no longer serve you is making room for more love. Take a look at my mother’s example.
That said, you don’t have to ruthlessly toss away items with sentimental value or that have fond memories. Why not create a digital or paper scrapbook? Take photos of your beloved items and write a brief caption for each. That way when you want to take a trip down memory lane, you have them all there in a much more compact form. Lastly, acknowledge that they were an important part of your past. Thank them for their presence in your home, and wish for them to bring joy to their next owner.


If you’re holding onto something because of money, consider this. You already bought it. That money is spent; that’s in the past. Now it’s sitting there in your home, and you aren’t using it like you thought you would. So your worst fear has already been realized; the money is gone, and you have an item you don’t need. There is no longer anything to fear, so you can let it go now.
As for possessions you believe have monetary value but aren’t sure, settle that answer once and for all. Give yourself a deadline to get items appraised, or let them go. Sell them if you can. By keeping them, you effectively have zero dollars. But selling them, even if it isn’t for as much as you believe, will garner you a 100% profit over what they give you sitting at your house.
For those afraid of “someday,” think back to how many times you needed this item in the past. If the answer is none, then let it go. I also have a general rule that if I haven’t used something in six months to a year, then the likelihood I will need it anytime in the near future is very low. And if an occasion arises in the distant future, it’s probable that a new, improved solution is available. So it just isn’t worth it to continue to burden myself with it.
Regarding giving up on dreams or abandoning projects, just know that if you want it badly enough, you will achieve it. The ability to do so lies within you, not in that pile of objects you are not using. Also, it’s perfectly fine to change your mind. It doesn’t make you a bad person to decide you no longer want to reach that goal. If you haven't taken the time to use what you bought, that’s evidence you may not be as passionate about it as you thought you were. Think it over, and see if that’s true.


Loyalty is an excellent quality in relationships. But your loyalties should lie with humans, not things. And doing something out of guilt is a bad idea because you will only be resentful later.
I can’t guarantee that someone who gifted you something won’t have hurt feelings if they see you no longer own it. If you’re worried about that, you can be upfront and tell them kindly that while you appreciate the sentiment behind the present, it just isn’t right for you. You want to include it in a donation to the less fortunate, and would like their permission to do so. But the reality is, they probably won’t even notice. Most people have so much stuff that one present would get lost in the shuffle.
And wearing or otherwise owning something to make you feel less guilty or ashamed is inauthentic. You are lying to your loved one, and to yourself, about who you really are. It’s better for everyone to be yourself. When you want or need to let go of possessions because you’re worried about what other people will think, you are not focusing on the opinion that matters most: yours.
Guilt related to getting rid of something because you can’t find a home for it is a struggle I’ve dealt with personally. You can’t sell it, you can’t donate it, and you don’t want to throw it away. So what do you do?
My first choice is to look for a broader market. Perhaps you're just looking too close to home. Someone in your circle of people doesn’t want it, but that doesn’t mean nobody wants it. Try using the internet. Here in the States, we have sites like Craigslist where you can list stuff for free. People often post “curb alerts” if they don’t want to be disturbed or won’t be home, with instructions that the item will be outside (at the curb, in the driveway, etc.) and is available to the first person who comes to retrieve it. You can also try Facebook or some of the apps I mentioned in my previous post about selling your stuff, as they often have free sections available. Most people love free stuff and will take things they don’t need just because they’re free. But that is now their cross to bear, not yours.
You can also look for artists who upcycle old objects. For example, I saw a show a while back about a woman in the UK who was hanging out at the dumps. She would look at what people were taking out of their cars and if something caught her eye, she would ask them if she could have it. Then she would transform it into one-of-a-kind artwork. I’m sure someone like her would love a donation of random items you’re certain are worthless.
If you can’t give it away for free, consider finding a place to recycle it. Sometimes this means paying for shipping or a pickup, but if it’s important that it not end up in a landfill, then maybe it’s worth it to you to pay a few dollars. I saw an article recently about a furniture company. They recycle old toys. These toys are made of plastic, and usually have a lifespan of 6 months before they break, or are no longer wanted, and get thrown away. The company rescues them from the landfill and makes them into furniture. Another company allows you to ship back used toothbrushes to be recycled again, while another lets you donate your old shoes for recycling.
If all else fails, then my opinion is it’s better to throw it away than keep it. It’s sad how much trash this world is generating, but all you can do is make better choices next time. Think about where that object will end up before you make your next purchase.


I used to take care of seniors in their homes, and I was usually there because they either had no one else to help them, or their relatives were too busy. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone spend the end of their lives alone, often in a home that serves as a shrine to the past.
But this doesn’t just happen to the elderly. Anyone who suffers great loss or is socially isolated is susceptible to collecting possessions in an attempt to replace human love and contact. But as I said before, they are just things. They can never love you back, and they are never going to give you the comfort you need.
The best remedy for this situation is to have more social interaction. Ask yourself what you need to do so you can be more engaged in the world of humans. Do you need to improve your emotional or physical health? Do you need assistance with transportation? What resources are in your local community that can help you? This might be a place of worship, a community center, or social services.
Sometimes people see asking for help as a sign of weakness, or think of it as “taking charity.” They want to hold on to their independence and not feel beholden to anyone. But I invite you to try a different perspective.
Communities are there for a reason; humans can't live isolated lives. We need each other. Just think if someone needed your help. Wouldn’t you want to give it to them, and not have them feel like they owed you? You would do it simply for the joy of helping. Have faith that others will feel the same way, and not expect you to repay their kindness unless you are able.
There is also no shame in using social services provided by your government. They exist because you contributed to that system with your tax dollars. It’s like buying a medical or car insurance policy; you’ve paid into it, so it’s there for you to use when you need it. Are there other people who need it more than you do? Maybe. But hopefully they, too, are smart enough to recognize to ask for that help when necessary. It’s there for everyone who needs it (and qualifies for aid), not just the most desperate.
Most people find that as their life gets full of love, happiness, and fulfillment, they need their possessions less. They can let those items go. You'll probably have this happen naturally as you recover from grief and loneliness. Once again, do this at your own pace, and be kind to yourself.

How to keep from getting more stuff you don’t need

I hope this post was helpful to you. If you use any of these tips, I’d love to hear in the comments or an email about how they worked for you.
And once you’ve unburdened yourself from your clutter, the trick is to keep from getting cluttered again. So how do you do that? We’ll talk about that in the next post: How To Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

How to Sell Your Stuff for Cash

If you have too much stuff and not enough money, there’s a solution for that. Sell you extra stuff for a profit! In this article, I’ll discuss the different ways you can sell your stuff for cash.
Here’s an outline of the methods we’ll discuss:
  • Local, in-person sales
  • Free listings on the internet
  • Paid/auction sites
  • Selling through peer-to-peer apps
In each category, we’ll review the most popular ways to sell your stuff and make some money. But first, I want to put in a disclaimer here about the emotional attachment to items, or deciding what something is worth without doing any research into the reality of the situation.
I know it’s tough, but you can’t put a price on items based on what’s in your heart. They may have been special to you, but that doesn’t mean the market will support the emotional value you place on them. And just because you paid a lot of money for something doesn’t mean it’s worth anything as a used item.
Ironically, some things are worth more than they were new. So you want to make certain you don’t underprice items, either. Also, the price tag you attach to them will vary based on which method you use to sell them and how quickly you want them sold.
I could write a whole book or course (and I’m planning to, at some point), on how to properly price items for sale. So for the purposes of brevity, I suggest you look for the used value of your items in the following places:
  • Thrift store price
  • Craigslist price
  • Amazon price
  • eBay price (check the recently sold listings)
  • Professional appraisals (for vintage, antiques, and collectibles)
In the end, it’s still an educated guess, and you may need to adjust the price over time or be willing to negotiate. But it’s better to do your research so when people try to bargain you down, you have evidence to back up your choice.
To further reinforce your price, always take excellent, clear pictures for your ad. Use good lighting, eliminate distracting clutter from the pictures, and take shots from many different angles. Be honest about any damage or visible wear that a buyer is sure to notice when they see it in person. If it's in less than like-new condition, adjust your price accordingly, and let potential buyers know in the listing why you are giving a discount. Take pictures so they can see what they’re getting into before they arrive, otherwise you’re wasting everybody’s time.

The last thing you want is to spend all your time negotiating with a buyer, only to have them back out of the deal at the last minute because they feel you hid something from them. Don't assume that nobody will notice the same flaws that you can see.

Local, in-person sales

A garage sale can be easy. You put some flyers up or a free ad in the paper, and then you spend your weekend outside haggling with customers. Oh, wait, that isn’t easy. That’s annoying.
My husband loves talking to people so he doesn’t mind doing it. I hide indoors when he does sales.
You could also just put a sign outside your house that lists items for sale and then your phone number or “inquire inside.”
The third option is to bring items to auction houses, pawnshops, or consignment stores. Just be aware that they will take a cut out of your profits, but it keeps you from having to deal with customers.

Free listings on the internet

Free classified websites are a great way to increase your potential customer base without spending any extra money. However, there are also some downsides to free places.
First of all, buyers are more likely to be flaky. They don’t care about wasting your time or stringing you along, because they have no money invested. It doesn’t matter to them how much time and energy you spent on selling your stuff. They will make appointments with you and not show up, and you’ll never hear from them again.
They will also try to ruthlessly cut the price, sometimes making extremely low offers before even seeing something in person. Try not to be too insulted. Remember, they have no sentimental attachment to what you’re selling, and they don’t care about you. They just want the best price possible, the same as you do.
We’ve had the most luck with Craigslist. We’ve sold just about everything on there, including a truck and two RVs (update in 2019: Craigslist is now charging a fee for listing passenger vehicle ads).
Facebook Marketplace is another option; they have free groups you can add more specialized items to as well.
There are a lot of other smaller websites out there, but I prefer sticking to the larger, more reputable ones.

Paid Sites and Auction Sites

Just about everyone knows about eBay. They started off with auctions, added “Buy It Now,” and now you can put up an item for sale and sellers can counter your offer price.
You may not know this, but the majority of sales on Amazon are of products from third-party sellers. Both small and large business owners source and provide Amazon products, and either ship them to Amazon for repackaging and shipping, or ship them directly from their location when someone orders a product.
But you don’t have to run a business to sell on Amazon. You can just sell occasionally on there. Amazon is more restrictive than eBay. But there are certain items you can get better prices on as a seller on Amazon. Do some comparison between the sale price on an item between the two, and see which one will work better for you.
Like with the free sites, there are a lot of other sites you can try out. I haven’t used any of them. And while the paid sites may offer a way to transfer money between buyer and seller, I recommend making sure they use high-end encryption before giving them any financial information.

Selling Through Peer-to-Peer Apps

There are several phone apps that connect buyers with sellers. They’re either free to use, which means they’re probably supported by ads that will be sprinkled through the app, or they will take a fee from the seller like eBay or Amazon.
Even though you are working with someone through the app, the app provider typically takes no responsibility for the transaction’s outcome. So if the buyer or seller is unhappy with the payment or quality of the product, they have to work it out themselves.
Usually, the verification process to join these apps is sparse. You might have to prove your residence by uploading a driver’s license and/or utility bill. After that, buyer or seller credibility is built up based on feedback from transactions.
So those are the main ways you can make some extra money selling stuff you don’t want or need. It definitely makes it easier to let go of things and downsize when you are getting some money back from doing it.
In my next post, I’m going to discuss the emotional component of letting go, and how to address it.