The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty-two


mini

Well, that year flew by. I seem to be saying that all the time lately.

A year ago, inspired by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus), I decided to begin my own journey toward living a more minimal, and more mindful, life. If I blogged about it every Friday, I’d be more accountable, and maybe if I had a flash of insight, I’d share it.

It began by cleaning out a drawer, then another. Then a cabinet and a cupboard, and another. Closets, multiple times. I began to look at possessions differently – all those collectibles that my husband I had bought through the years of our marriage, little trinkets of remembrance. Some Many of those items are worth keeping – like the prints and paintings that remind us of a special trip. Other things just take up space.

I’m not done. This is an ongoing project, and I never did clean out the garage as much as I’d wanted to, so I’ve marked that as a fall project. We still have our beloved dog, Bonnie (thankfully), so the well-worn furniture that she claims as her own stays, for now.

My friend gave me this wonderful bracelet for my recent birthday – how thoughtful she is, especially knowing how I feel about plastics and ocean pollution. Please click the link for more information about how you, too, can help. Gifts with purpose!!

If you’re overwhelmed with clutter, know that if you want to change that situation, you can. And if you look around and think you can never live more minimally, start small (like I did). Start with one drawer. Or, start on August 1 and get rid of (meaning, recycle, repurpose, or toss out) one item. On August 2, do the same with two items, and go through the month that way. You can throw out an old tube of mascara on August 1 and donate a worn but still wearable pair of shoes on August 2. Yes, you can do this.

So even though I won’t be blogging every week about my journey, the journey continues.

mini2

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty-one


plastic bags

I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic – bags, straws, packaging, utensils – there’s just so much plastic. And we all aware that our oceans are filling up with plastic at an alarming rate.

At the conclusion of this year-long project, I’ve just discovered Tippi Thole. Tippi Thole is someone you should discover, too. Check out her “tiny trash can” website here – and you’ll be amazed/inspired/ wowed. Because Tippi Thole replaced the trash can in her kitchen (10-gallon capacity) with a small wastebasket (like the kind you probably have in your bathroom). She began to shop mindfully, and within a few months, the amount of trash her family produced each week fit into a Mason jar that is under 3″ tall!!!

Could I do this, too? I’m sure as hell going to try. We’re only two people.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty


LIVE

Maybe you’ve figured out, like I have, that material things don’t make you happy. Yay! But, like I was last year, you’re wondering where to begin. So. Much Stuff. Right?

I hear you! I feel you! And perhaps I can help. So here are 10 things you can do now:

  1. Start by reducing items. Look in your linen closet – how many towels, how many sets of sheets, how many tablecloths? Do you need all of them? Betcha you don’t. Keep what’s necessary – you also don’t want to be doing laundry every day – but donate or ditch the rest.
  2. Get in your closet. Remember when I wrote about Project 333 ? I did it, for the summer, and I love it. I have a few work-appropriate pieces for when I go into the office where I work one day a week, and the rest of my clothes are simple pieces. I’ll do this again in the fall.
  3. See if you can donate something to a well-deserving charity each week. The extra set of dishes that you never use. The winter coat and the boots that you don’t wear.
  4. Sell your unwanted but still good stuff. Yard sales and online auctions work for some, and you might pocket a little cash in the process.
  5. Have cloth shopping bags in your car always. Use them wherever you go, not just the grocery store, but everywhere. If you do have plastic bags, find a place to recycle them.
  6. Living minimally also means spending mindfully. If you keep track for even a week of your mindless spending, you’ll be shocked.
  7. Getting rid of paper has been one of my biggest challenges. I’m still working on digitizing everything, from photographs to insurance policies to tax returns.
  8. Unplug when you can. And you can more often than you think. Unsubscribe from mailing lists that clog up your inbox and never get opened. If the news in your feed is making you angry or depressed, let it go. You can still be informed.
  9. Borrow books instead of buying them. Or buy a digital version, if you like that. I read both, and I like to support independent authors by buying their books (both print and digital versions), but if I buy a print book, I pass it along to someone else. For better-known authors, I’ll use the library.
  10. Do you give a lot of gifts? How about an experience instead? Treat your girlfriend to a manicure, send your parents to their favorite restaurant, give your kid’s teacher movie coupons.

 

I’m sure there are plenty more ideas you can come up with!

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-nine


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. 🧡

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-eight


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.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-six


Smile

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?

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


closet

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.