Living minimally is circular. By that, I mean we continue the practice on an ongoing basis. As I come to the end of this year-long project, I’ll no longer post each Friday morning. But I’ll still give this way of life my best effort. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not.
I’ve cleaned out closets, drawers, cupboards. Brought boxes and bags to the donation center. I’ve thought twice before making impulse purchases and I regard “things” with a more critical eye.
I’m still concerned with the amount of plastic we use, even though I’m recycling as much as possible. But my paper straws are working just fine and my fancy glass straw is pretty (www.glassdharma.com). I’d rather frequent restaurants that use cardboard takeout containers. No more Styrofoam! Cloth grocery bags go not only to the supermarket but also to CVS and Target.
A few more weeks to go. Onward. 🧡
Kind of hard to write this week. I’m not sleeping, because I’m so worried about this country. These poor children and their distraught parents. The daily barrage of hatred and condemnation from the White House, the silent acceptance by the elected Republicans. The false information spread by those who don’t take the time to educate themselves to the facts.
“I’ve seen several tweets comparing this to Nazis / The Holocaust and saying things like ‘this is how it begins.’ I teach Holocaust Literature so let me be clear – this ISN’T how it began. This is already several stages along the way.” (Aviva Dautch)
“Make no mistake – no matter where you stand on immigration, what we are doing to children and families in the name of the law is evil. And we, as Christ followers, have a moral responsibility to speak and stand against evil. You cannot remain silent.” (Pastor Stan Cardwell of Community United Methodist Church in Crofton, Maryland)
Chobani chief executive Hamdi Ulukaya, an immigrant who is known for hiring refugees, tweeted that “separating a child from a mother or father is not political. It is inhumane. It is against everything this country stands for. I have seen it in other parts of the world but never thought I’d see it in the land of the free.”
This week I shredded paper and put it in the recycle bin. I used less stuff.
There’s an early episode of “Mad Men,” when Betty is speaking with her brother, reminiscing about how much their father hated small talk (“Remember how he’d fine us?”)
Part of living more mindfully is cutting out the excess, whether that means clearing out a closet, a cupboard, a drawer, or all the excess noise and information we’re barraged with constantly.
As an introvert (yes, I am), I get anxious in casual social situations where small talk rules. Because you generally don’t want to discuss heavy subjects with strangers, you end up trapped in small talk.
When is the last time you truly felt calm? Quiet? At peace? Do you hike in the woods? Walk by yourself on the beach? Read without ambient noise? I’ve been cherishing my quiet time lately, and while I do stay connected – to the news, to friends, to my readers, certainly with my husband, there’s beauty in quiet – no TV, no radio, no social media.
Even if you can only find 15 minutes today, seek it out. 🧡
The death this week of Kate Spade struck me. I don’t own any of her products, but the death of a celebrity usually makes the news, and in Spade’s case, because of her relatively young age (55), her vast success, and the fact that she took her own life, her death was the lead story on evening newscasts. Many people were shocked – why? Because her inner struggles weren’t obvious. Like so many people, she suffered from depression.
And where does this fit in with living minimally? Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist writes, “It is [also] helpful to intentionally make time to think positive thoughts, to practice looking for the silver lining, to choose happiness. At first, it might feel phony if you’re not an optimist, but even the staunchest realist among us can acknowledge that there is at least some lesson to be learned in every situation.”
I agree, it’s easier for some than for others. And this is not to suggest that decluttering your living space will eradicate your sadness and depression. You can clear out all your junk and still be unhappy. However, as my friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) will tell you, “Getting rid of the excess in your life will…help you discover what does in fact make you happy. (Hint: it’s not your possessions; most of your possessions are actually in the way of your happiness.) And it’s much easier to find the path toward happiness once you’ve cleared the debris.”
Isn’t it worth a try?
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.
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 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?