The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-five

Old habits die hard. But the only way to change an old habit is by practicing a new one.

Last weekend I went out with my sister. Neither of us is a shopper, but she needed to buy shoes for work and I tagged along.

Now, you may recall that I’ve pared down my shoe collection (black, brown, white, tan, sneakers – that’s basically it – winter boots don’t count in June). But I was drawn in – lots of sandals on sale. I was tempted. I paused, long enough to realize that I have what I need. And the floor of my closet looks good! Hey, buy ’em if you want ’em. This is my personal journey. I’ll survive without those adorable Calvin Klein slides, marked down 40%.

Then we hit the bookstore. Oh, man. Harder than passing up shoes is passing up books.

But I did. I’m behind my own self-imposed schedule for the new novel I’m writing, and I still have plenty of books to read. Besides, if I do buy a book, it’ll be from an independent bookstore.

We are barraged with ads every day. Buy now. On sale. Clearance. Last chance! It’s part of our culture. Changing the habit of consumerism can come slowly. But last weekend, as I returned home with only a bouquet of irises for the house, I felt triumphant.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-four

Why go minimal? It isn’t all about clearing out your junk, although it’s a great place to start. When I began this journey last year, I focused only on getting rid of clutter. But that’s only a small part of living minimally.

I realized I’d been living minimally for years – not interested in accumulating more than I needed, giving gifts that can be consumed or enjoyed (experiences rather than things), being mindful of what goes into the garbage. When I can change for the better, I’ve tried to do that, but I’ve failed, too. Hopefully I’ve learned through this missteps.

“I think throwing away your material possessions and throwing away your memories are two completely different actions,” says Fumio Sasaki. I agree. Things aren’t the symbols of our connections to each other. You can take a picture of it, if you need to, and still let it go serve a purpose somewhere else.

And you don’t have to fill all the space! Right now we have one full-size sofa, two accompanying chairs, and a recliner that we bought seven years ago, when back trouble kept me from sleeping in our bed. The only reason we’re keeping all these items is because our beautiful but old dog loves them all (yep, she sleeps wherever she wants). As long as we have her, we’re not going to disrupt the routine. That’s a decision we both agree on. The furniture is old and worn, but we don’t entertain in our home, so it doesn’t matter to us. And when she’s gone, we’ll grieve for her presence, but we won’t hold on to the old worn sofa. Or the scatter rugs that keep her from sliding across the floor.

I do look forward to lots of empty space in our living area.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-two


The Becoming Minimalist blog has the same theme that I’d planned on this week, so I’ll share their post and then write about it. Joshua Becker’s title is ” 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day.” Now, you might be totally repulsed by that idea, but hold off on your judgment until you read the post (by clicking on the highlighted text at the beginning of this paragraph).

Uniforms are great! Whether you wear scrubs, or khakis and a polo shirt, or black pants and t-shirt, your agonizing over what to wear is non-existent. Becker says, “We have no idea how much of a burden our possessions have become until we begin to remove them.”

So what if you work in an office, as I did? I quit that job seven years ago, and I’m still donating bags of clothes and shoes. Now I go into an office one day a week, and I have no stress about what to wear. I saved a couple of pairs of slacks and three or four shirts, all appropriate for an office.

Have you heard about Project 333? The link will bring you to the website, but it’s the idea of wearing only 33 items over a 3-month time period (a season). All clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes count toward your number. You don’t have to count wedding ring(s), underwear, sleepwear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing. Well, I’m in! And next week I’ll detail what I compiled for my 33 items.

What about you? Could you try Project 333?

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-one

scrabble freedom

You have a very good salary, but your bank account is low and your debt is never-ending. You live a house that has more bedrooms than people to inhabit them. You have a mortgage and a car loan and credit card debt. Are you happy? Are you free?

I’m not judging. When I was in my twenties, I lived way beyond my means. I was stressed about credit card debt, and while I always made the minimal payments, I wasn’t getting myself out of debt, because every month I’d make more purchases, just to feel good. Ha! Joke was on me. I worked in a bank (yes, me) and I hated it. But when I had a chance, a good chance to switch to a job at a college, in a field far more suited to me, I couldn’t do it. Because it paid slightly less and I couldn’t afford a lower salary – because I had debt.

In my thirties, I got married. I didn’t bring a lot of money to the marriage, but by then, I’d worked my way out of debt and was living more carefully. We bought a house and furniture. We had a mortgage that at first was daunting. But we managed, even paid a little extra each month. And as my salary increased, I began saving aggressively, trying to make up for the previous ten years when I squandered money easily.

By the time I hit my forties, I was earning a good salary. More importantly, I was saving a lot. My 401k grew substantially, and whenever my pay went up, my contribution to it went up as well.

I quit that lucrative job in my fifties. It was making me sick, and I didn’t want to have a heart attack or a stroke. I started writing novels, and while I probably won’t ever get rich from writing, I’m doing something I love. We’ve never had credit card debt, and I’ve found that we need so much less than I used to think.

Joshua Fields Millburn, who is one half of The Minimalists (with Ryan Nicodemus) says this: “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”

Look, my clutter isn’t your clutter. Each of us has to take stock of what we have, and what we can live without. But by clearing our the excess, the stuff that doesn’t bring you happiness, you will find space for the more important things.


The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty

This was a week for boxing up and carting items to The Salvation Army store in my town. Funny, but I had no emotional attachment to these things and was able to let them go easily. They’re just things!

Decorative and pretty, yes. But I haven’t used any of these items in years. Someone else might find a treasure, and that would make me happy!

My husband agrees that it’s time to donate the service for twelve (twelve! There are five of us left in our combined families) that was his mother’s. I think we used it twice in the nearly twenty-four years that we’ve been married.

It’s a lovely service, and I do hope that a family will use it.

We still have a lot of glassware and knickknacks in the top half of our china cabinet. Onward!

The Year of Living Minimally ~ Week Thirty-eight

Oh, I didn’t get this posted on Friday morning! I thought I did. Sorry!

My husband’s birthday was this past Monday. He said he didn’t need anything, and I believed him. We have everything we need! So I bought him a bottle of Limoncello (it’s spring!). No longer do we feel the need to show our love for each other with purchases. We’d rather have time together, because time is the most precious commodity.

A couple of weeks ago, I met my friend Lori and bestowed upon her a few items from my ‘former life’ as a fraud investigator. The apex of my professional career was being a Certified Fraud Examiner, president of the local chapter, and Regent for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. But now I write novels!

So I gave Lori a few ACFE padfolios, and this!

It used to hang on the wall of my office, and even though I had nothing to do with the investigation of Providence’s former mayor, I loved this poster. If you’re not local, you can read about him here.

Little by little, I’m finding it easier to not hold on to things. Things are not memories, or emotions. I know my journey will not end with the ‘Week Fifty-two’ post.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Thirty-seven

Goodwill bin

This week I gave away more stuff. This time I cleaned out the linen closet. We all have one, right? Towels and sheets and blankets and so many extra pillowcases. All clean, all very usable, all too much for us.

We live in a town that has many lower-income residents. All I have to do is drive from the relative sanctuary of our condo, encircled by woods, with a golf course across the street, and head over to the farther side of town, where there are triple-decker tenements, boarded-up businesses, poverty. Many people in this town struggle to get by, as I know there are people like that in virtually every town across America.

When I see the need that is so apparent, I want to hurry back home and gather up more. The dinnerware, the linens, clothes and shoes and winter coats, all excess in my eyes but gratefully accepted for those who don’t have room for ‘extras.’

At this point in my year-long journey toward minimalism, I spend each week thinking about what I don’t need anymore – can someone else use it? Then donate it. Can it be recycled? Into the bin. Must it be trashed or can it be repurposed somewhere else? And I’m finding I need less and less to be happy.