Categories
Decorating Happiness Organization self-improvement

The Amazing Power of Tiny Changes

“If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life.”

Kevin Trudeau

The above quote resonated with me when I stumbled upon it several years ago. I’d always told myself that I’d make the big changes to my home and my life after I’d achieved financial freedom but after hearing those words I realized that there were some things that I could change while I waited.

So I did.

I’ve written on this website about some of the changes, about how I’d decided to experiment with the Diderot Effect, to see what it would accomplish. One of the things I allowed myself to do was to spend more money than old me would even consider to acquire the items that I really wanted instead of things that would just get me by.

I’d forgotten about that decision until recently. The changes I’d made were so subtle that they weren’t noticeable. Investing in a higher quality pen instead of using a cheap freebie, buying a large computer monitor when I found one on sale instead of making do with the small one I had, treating myself to a video game that I loved instead of doing without. Even the act of allowing myself to embrace the small television that my daughter had gifted me instead of insisting that I didn’t need it was an action inspired by that quote.

This was why, once the shock of achieving financial freedom wore off, I faced a quandary: what did I want to claim as my reward that I didn’t already have?

If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life. If you want a simpler, cleaner home, instead of telling yourself that you’ll do something with the next move or when you can afford the fancy storage system, start cleaning up your house now.

If you have a choice between buying an item now that’s cheap and saving up to buy the one that you really want, save up the money. The act of delaying the purchase not only makes the acquisition more delightful, you get what you want instead of just making do.

This is a big thing, much bigger than I’d realized. Just a series of tiny changes can completely change your life in time and you won’t even notice.

Since I made my initial decision to upgrade the things in my life so many little things have changed that I find it hard to recognize the person I was back when I started. I suspect the same will happen to you if you allow yourself to start making tiny changes as well.

As for the reward I’d promised myself, instead of focusing on acquiring things, I’ve decided to focus upon how I want the home to feel instead. I want a wave of tranquility flow over anyone who enters this home so I am in search of the right paint color and physical arrangement to make it happen.

Even this early in the process, I can already tell a difference.

I’ll share photos once this project looks a bit more finished but to my surprise, we don’t have near as much to do or acquire as I expected thanks to the tiny changes I’ve allowed myself over the years. Never did I dream that such small changes could make such a large difference.

Have you ever looked back on your life and realized that the tiniest changes made the biggest difference? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Food Frugality Organization

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

~

While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Decluttering Finances Frugality Minimalism Simplicity

We Should Practice What We Preach

I stopped exploring most of the minimalism, simplicity, and frugality blogs on the Internet these days. As a general rule, they fail to practice what they preach so I find them offensive.

The first thing you see when you click on one of those blog links is a giant popup. “Sign up for my mailing list and I’ll give you this piece of advertising disguised as helpful information for FREE!” When you sign up to make the popup disappear, your inbox will be flooded on a regular basis with advertising. “Join my class! Sign up for my FREE webinar so I can talk you into paying money for this class, this app, or whatever it is I’m selling!” The variety of methods that they use to persuade you that you NEED to give them money is not only impressive, it is disgusting.

When you finally manage to dispose of the popup, you are then forced to read their content, content that is disrupted by ads as you scroll down if they don’t break it up into a slideshow format designed to force you to click several times and view a bunch of more ads.

Even worse, when you get to the content, what do they do? They review different products and services with the intent of persuading you to BUY.

Seriously, you don’t need to buy MORE crap. You’ve already gotten more than enough for your needs. If you happen to be visiting those sites, chances are that you’re so broke that you can’t afford to buy them anyway.

But they do this. They don’t care how poor or broke you are. They don’t care that you’ve got far too much stuff already. All they care about is emptying your wallets a little bit more.

It’s not about helping you; it’s about enriching themselves. Check into the private lives of many of these people and you will discover that they make more money (and live at a higher standard) than a poor person can even comprehend. How can they possibly have your best interest in mind when they don’t know what it’s like to be so poor that you have to cook a pot of beans just to eat that week? How can they possibly understand the challenges that they don’t have to face because they make so much more money than you?

See, it’s easy to buy a new gadget when you’ve got the money to spare. And it makes sense to them to spend dollars just to save a few pennies because that’s how they were trained. Even if they weren’t conditioned to purchase things that won’t really save money in the long run, they have realized that if they can persuade you to buy these things that they will have more money in their bank.

And the only way to tell them apart is if you see them practice what they preach.

An excellent example of this is Marie Kondo. I refuse to link to her site in disgust for her actions. I used to like her; I found her logic as related to eliminating items that didn’t “spark joy” to be refreshing.

Until she showed her true colors, that is.

I wasn’t bothered by the fact that she started a show about her particular brand of minimalism. I was grateful for that because it helped to spread the word that people as a whole need to thin out their stuff. I was glad that she managed to find a way to do that and make a bit of money in the process.

But then, after she preached and preached about the need to thin down and eliminate, what did she do? She released a whole line of stuff that she wanted you to BUY.

REALLY?

How does that even make sense? If you needed to buy something, you sure as hell wouldn’t be tossing your perfectly serviceable stuff away, now would you? How can you speak out of one side of your mouth to tell people to throw their shit away then open the other side and tell them to BUY?

It is hypocisy in the strictest sense, spurred entirely by greed. She doesn’t give a shit about you; all she cares about is filling her bank account. She doesn’t care that you’re poor and broke and overwhelmed; just toss out your shit, buy her crap, and suffer through the overdraft fees when you discover that the shit you’ve kept has worn out before you’ve managed to save up enough money to replace it.

Why do you think that I’ve refused to offer classes? Why do you think that I’ve refused to create a mailing list? Why do you think that I’ve patently refused the offers I’ve received to market tee-shirts and other items to you? Why do you think that I live in the Hood and dine on Ramen instead of filling this website with ads?

I do it because I actually practice what I preach. I do it because this is about more than filling my bank account. I do this because I’ve seen a problem with this world and with the ways we’ve been taught and I want to fix it, even if I have to starve in the process.

While I’m not starving (don’t worry), I have deliberately made choices not to market to you because I believe that you’ve been marketed to enough. I have deliberately made choices that have affected me financially because I believe in what I tell you and I live my life based upon those beliefs every single day.

It enrages me that there are bloggers and writers and so-called frugality experts preaching to you that you need to toss the shit you already have and buy their shit instead. And there is only one way to stop that. It’s the exact same way you can remove the power and control of the corporations who have taken over our nation.

Stop paying attention to them. Stop buying their stuff. Stop paying for their classes. Stop encouraging them to market to you and they’ll eventually go broke and be forced to quit.

When that happens, the ones who will be left standing are the ones who truly practice what they preach in regards to simplicity, minimalism, and frugality because they’ll be the only ones with the skills to know how to live on less. They will be the ones who will do the work for free, not because they don’t need money to live on (we all need that), but because they feel that the message is more important than profit.

Those are the people you want to support, because those are the people who truly want to help you.

So think twice before you stick your email into their popups. Think twice before you buy their classes, click on their ads, or buy stuff from their product lines. Because to them, you are nothing more than an income stream.

For the record, you can find some of my ebooks listed for free on the torrent sites. If you’re broke, feel free to download them. I know that they’re there, because I’m the one who uploaded some. I’ve given out scores of my books for free to readers who emailed me and shared that they wanted to buy my books but didn’t have the money.

I do this because this is about more than the money to me. This is about the fact that people are poor and broke and struggling and they don’t know where to turn. This is about the fact that I’ve struggled my whole entire life, and I don’t want to see other people facing that fate.

I want to make this world a bit better place.

I can’t predict the future. I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford to do what I do without acquiring a job for the long term. And that’s okay. That’s okay because this is about more than me. This is about helping you realize that society is broken, and the only way to fix it is to stop feeding the monsters.

It’s time for me to stop ranting for now. I’ve a house to clean and a book to write. If I can be of service to you don’t hesitate to email or comment. If you find my posts helpful, please know that even the shortest comment helps increase my ranking on the search engines. Sharing my posts with your friends helps to get the word out as well.

Please help me do that. Thank you.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Decluttering

Bookshelf Before and After

I finally got the bookshelf sorted somewhat. I decided to try something new this time. My goal is to cultivate a sense of tranquility in this home so after a bit of thought I decided to remove all of the dust jackets from my hardcover books and arrange the entire collection by color. That runs counter to the methods I’ve used in the past but I actually like the end result. If anything, I will have a valid excuse (“I just liked the color”) if someone happens to comment upon a socially questionable title in my collection.

To demonstrate the change in my collection I dug up a photograph of my shelf from May of 2019. I’d just rearranged the collection. It was two layers deep on every shelf and went from floor to ceiling. It grew exponentially after I took that photo but this will at least give you an idea of the problem I faced.

Taken May 2019

This is what my bookshelf looks like after I culled and sorted the books. The bags on the top contain some of the excess from my wardrobe. The plastic bins contain excess from my office supply collection. Attrition will eliminate these items in time but for now I needed a place to store them.

The top shelf of books looks a bit more chaotic than I would like but I could not figure out how to reduce that. It primarily contains my art and computer book collection. I wonder if it is safe to eliminate the computer books at least; I tend to do an online search when I need the information those books contain instead of using the books these days since it’s faster. Do you think it would be safe to eliminate them if I managed to acquire PDF copies of the books?

Even now I find myself looking at the titles I kept and wondering if I can pare them down even more. I don’t feel secure enough to do that yet so I will have to revist the subject on another day.

The results of this project make me wonder if I could pare down my possessions to the point where I could dismantle one of my shelves and place it in the attic? It would be nice to free up more space and reduce the clutter. What do you think?

Categories
Decluttering

Why do we hoard books?

The space I’ve gained after yesterday’s purge has made me realize that I was devolving into a book hoarder. I had way too many physical books for the house I live in, to the point where it was negatively impacting my quality of life.

As a result, my question today is why do we feel the need to collect and keep print books? What is it about the medium that inspires some of us to hold on to more than is practical?

Pointing this question directly at myself since I am the one who has realized that I have a problem: why do I want to keep so many books?

The only answers I can come up with relate to my history.

When I was a little girl, the first book I remember receiving was a ragged copy of a nursery rhyme book. It had been left in one of the apartments my father owned when the tenants moved out. The cover was missing along with many of the pages but I adored that book. I spent a lot of time just admiring the pages even before I recall having the ability to read. That was the book I would take to my father and beg him to read me a bedtime story from. I’d seen parents read bedtime stories to their children on television so I begged to have them read to me.

I was in the first grade when I recall being able to actually understand what I was reading. I would lose myself in the books I would check out at the school library to the point where I would forget my bus stop–to the immense annoyance of the driver.

I never had enough to read. I was so hungry! I devoured every book I could get my hands on. My parents noticed my hunger so they purchased a set of encyclopedias at an auction around this point. They weren’t readers themselves but they tried. Those books were above my reading level at the time but I adored them just the same.

Internet didn’t exist for the common people in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I grew up so I didn’t have access to the abundance of reading material that we have today. My parents weren’t ones to visit public libraries, so my reading was limited to what I could beg my parents to buy and what I could acquire at school.

It was never enough. I would make bargains with the teachers and librarians to gain extra opportunities to exchange the books I checked out at school. Teachers tried to help by lending me additional books, yet still I felt the hunger.

I wonder if that is the reason I so desperately want to hoard every single book I come in contact with today. Every time I see a book, especially an unwanted book, I want to take it home and love it. I want to place it on my bookshelf just to possess because one day I may want to read it. It doesn’t really matter the subject; I just want to hold them close and keep them.

In light of our modern age, this desire to collect print books no longer makes practical sense. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, the Open Library, and many other resources, older books can be acquired in a variety of formats for free. I have utilized these resources for two decades now, collecting older books in plain text format to save space on my computer. I email them to my Kindle when I am not in the mood to read them on my computer. I even collect PDF books that I read on my computer or my iPad if the books contain images or other items that make reading in their original print format easier.

I have a scary amount of these ebooks. I have over 7,000 titles on my Kindle alone. That’s not including the DVDs and CDs I have burned over the years to archive my collection so it is safe to say that I have an issue with hoarding when it comes to books. I cannot even justify this by saying that I’ve read all of them because I haven’t. I’ve read a huge amount of them but definitely not all of them.

So what makes me this way? is it truly because I felt such a lack of reading material in my childhood? Is it because I’ve went through periods of my life when I couldn’t afford to buy more books? Is it because I feel an attachment to books in particular for some reason?

I don’t know. All I do know is that while the digital collecting of ebooks causes no personal difficulty for me (it is not a burden to store the digital archives since I keep them in a binder with my other files), I do need to learn how to curtail my desire to hoard print books. As much as I adore them, I lack the space to keep every title I encounter. This home is rather tiny and I’m toying with the idea of moving into an even smaller place should the kid decide to move out in the future. The last thing I want or need is for my epitaph to read “Died beneath a mountain of books.”

Then again, if Carrie Fisher can write her own epitaph maybe I can do the same. “Sacrificed her life for the books she loved” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Why do you collect the books that you do? Do you collect purely print, a mix of print and digital, or exclusively digital? How large is your collection (if you were to take a guess)? Maybe if we all share our reasons we will gain a deeper understanding of this phenomena.

Note:

For those who are interested, I stumbled upon this article that discusses book hoarding. I found it rather interesting. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/26/bibliomania-the-strange-history-of-compulsive-book-buying

Categories
Decluttering Organization

Change Starts at Home

I may not be able to change the world but at least I am able to change myself. I’ve done a lot of thinking on that subject lately because the questions I’ve been asking have revealed a source of discontent within my life that I’ve been trying to ignore.

Try as I may, I could not put my finger on what was bothering me so I started looking back in my life, examining the periods when I was truly happy. I figured if I could identify the differences then I might be able to find a clue to my current dissatisfaction.

Do you know what I discovered? I discovered that the happiest point in my life wasn’t when I had the most money. It wasn’t when I was my busiest or my laziest.

The happiest time of my life was when I first moved here with almost nothing.

My bed was on the floor. I used the coffeetable of my childhood as a desk, sitting upon the folded up futon to write.

Almost all of my books were digital because I’d had no room to bring my physical ones.

My food was stored in a cooler until I acquired a refrigerator. I had a small but decent wardrobe. I owned my laptops, and that was about it.

Everything else I had hauled down here belonged to the kid.

But I was happy. I was so happy in those days even as I scrabbled to pay the bills and get sorted.

Why was that? Was it because I had less to clean? Was it because I had less things to distract me?

I don’t know the answers. All I do know is that something is amiss in my life and I want to fix it.

Today I took that first step. I decided to tackle the largest hoard in my house–my book collection.

I dug out every single tome in the house. My collection had outgrown the shelf I’d designated for it so my mission was simple: distil the collection down to where they would fit in their designated area with room to spare.

I spent the entire day agonizing over titles but bit by bit I whittled them down. I set the discards aside, watching first one stack, then another and another form as I continued the task.

I actually did better than I expected with this round. I’m quite proud of myself. After I stopped to eat, I invited some friends over to pick through my collection. As they left for the evening, so did the last of the selections.

I feel so much lighter now that they’re gone! I thought I would feel sad but I don’t. In fact, part of me wishes that I had eliminated more.

Over the next few days I will decide how to organize the titles that I’ve kept. When that is complete I will share photos. I believe I have at least one photo that was taken around the time they started getting completely out of control. If I can find it I will share it with you as well.

This makes me wonder if one of the reasons we are so dissatisfied with our lives is because we’ve allowed them to become too cluttered. Maybe the reason we buy when we’re unhappy is because we think that buying will make us happier, only to make the problem worse because the real reason we’re unhappy is that we’ve got too much stuff already?

I’m not even sure if that last sentence made any sense. I’ve been at this since early this morning so I am terribly exhausted. I’ll have to think about it tomorrow.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

One last note before you go. Due to numerous requests I created a donation link for those who want to chip in without buying a book.


Thank you for your support!

Categories
Minimalism Organization Personal Simplicity

Physical Vs. Print Books

Over the years I have waffled between print and physical books. I love having the ability to pull a book off of the shelf and flip to my notes or review certain sections. I don’t know if it is because I grew up exclusively with physical books or if that is the way that my brain works. Regardless of the reason, I’ve collected quite a few print books over the past few years, believing that it was the best path for me to take.

Technology has changed immensely since I made the initial decision to focus almost exclusively upon print books so I have realized that this subject needs to be revisited. This article will discuss the differences between the two formats as I decide if one format is better for me personally.

Ease of Acquisition

If you want to acquire an ebook it is a simple matter of downloading the title desired from the Internet. If you have access to an Internet connection you can acquire almost any book you desire within moments. Websites that specialize in creating ebooks from titles that are out of copyright are prolific these days. There are very few books that one cannot download immediately now–especially if the book in question is an older one.

Print books can be located easily enough from libraries, book sales, thrift shops, friends, and a myriad of other avenues. If a book you desire cannot be located locally you can always order it online. You will have to pay for shipping and wait a few days but you can still acquire them.

The primary difference (aside from speed) when it comes to acquiring either print or physical books is cost. A large number of ebook titles are older and out of copyright; these titles can be acquired for free in digital format but even the oldest print book may cost money to acquire. If the title is an uncommon one (like a first edition), acquiring a physical copy can become prohibitively expensive. While it may not cost much to acquire an older print book locally, shipping expense on physical books can add up over time.

Ease of Access

One of my primary issues with ebooks is the DRM that is so prevalent when you purchase books from major retailers. If those companies go under, what happens to the books you’ve purchased? Will you still be able to access them? Will the money you spent on the digital books be for nothing if the company decides to withdraw your right to access those books? This is a major concern for me. Many ebooks come packaged in a special format that would make it impossible to read the books if you lose access to your reader software or the company decides to revoke your right to read them. That problem doesn’t exist for print books; you don’t need special software to read them and never have to worry about some company telling you that you can no longer access the books you’ve purchased. As long as you have a physical copy, you will be able to read that book. Even better, you can lend that book out if you desire. Many ebooks do not have this ability. Ebook distributors don’t want people to share the ebooks they’ve purchased so they seriously limit–if not completely eliminate–your ability to share the ebooks you’ve purchased.

Search capabilities

Ebooks win in this area. If you can remember a few words from a section, a quick search will retrieve all instances in a book where those words appear. This is much easier to do with ebooks than it is with print books; if the print book doesn’t contain an index, you are forced to flip through the pages until you hopefully get lucky enough to locate the area you are searching for.

However, when it comes to actually locating a book that you are looking for, print wins out if you don’t know the exact title. Humans are geared to recognize things visually. It is a simple matter to sift through a collection of physical books to locate a specific cover, bookmark, or other identifying mark when searching for a particular book. Even with modern ebook readers that feature covers this can be difficult. Publishers (especially indie publishers) tend to change their ebook covers occasionally. When they change the covers on their ebooks, the ebook reader system will update the title with the new cover–rendering your visual ability to locate that book useless.

Space and Portability

You can store an incomprehensible number of ebooks upon a single device and carry that device with you. This grants you the ability to keep an entire library of books in your possession wherever you may go. The only way to comprehend what this means is to try carrying aound a 1,000-plus page book to read during downtimes. I’ve had to do that in the past. When I began learning about computers, many of the books I read were in this page range or even larger. These books can be a logistical nightmare. Just trying to open one up to read a few paragraphs while you’re standing in line is almost physically impossible if you don’t have a place to sit down. With a small computer or ereader, however, you can accomplish this with ease.

Moving can also become a logistical nightmare if you possess a large number of books. These books must be boxed and taken to the place where you have decided to relocate to. If you are moving some distance, this can end up costing a fortune. I’ve encountered this issue several times over the years as I’ve moved from place to place. It was one of the primary reasons I began shifting to ebooks before I settled in this house. I couldn’t afford the time or the expense of moving my immense library from a practical perspective.

Once you settle into a place, physical books add another layer of difficulty to one’s life. You need to acquire some sort of shelving or devise another method of storage for the books. Once you have that in place, you have to maintain your physical book collection by dusting it, rearranging it when the titles get out of order, as well as protecting them from moisture and other hazards. If your physical book collection outgrows the space that you have allotted for it, you either have to eliminate some of the books or expand your storage. This can become quite expensive, especially in light of how much it costs in our modern age to rent or purchase larger homes. Very few of us have the financial luxury of being able to afford a home large enough to store an extensive library of physical books.

In contrast, even the largest library of ebooks can be stored on a tablet, ereader, phone, or backed up on a hard drive. I have several DVDs worth of ebooks stored away that I’ve collected through the years. It takes very little space to store those discs in comparison to storing the physical versions.

Privacy

A modern discussion of the subject of books would not be relevant without discussing privacy concerns. Our world is slowly evolving into a state of constant surveillance. Many of us like to read books that those around us would not approve of if they saw those books on our shelves. I encountered this issue personally many years ago; I was a member of a religious faith that “discouraged” its members from possessing and reading any book that was not officially sanctioned by the leaders of that faith. In fact, that was one of the reasons I began exploring ebooks. It allowed me the freedom to read what I wanted without anyone in that faith to become aware of my unsanctioned reading preferences.

While as a society we may not have degenerated to the point where our reading material can get us in legal trouble, there are some instances where discretion is encouraged. Certain subjects like the Law of Attraction, spiritualism, and even certain reference materials can make family and friends uncomfortable or even hostile if they happen to see these types of titles upon our bookshelves. Because of this, it may be safest to keep certain subjects of reading and research exclusively in digital format–if only to avoid questions.

My Personal Situation

As much as I prefer print books, the space that I have to store them is limited. The shelf I acquired to store my library is overflowing. At some point in the future I will have to reduce my collection by thinning out some of the titles I own. Many of the books I prefer to read are older titles so I wonder at the logic of paying for a physical copy when I could download a digital copy for free instead. Does it make sense to spend money to purchase, say, Moby Dick in a physical book when I can download an ebook version for free?

While I’ve not been openly criticized for my reading preferences in close to a decade, I still carry some emotional scarring from that time in my life. There are some subjects that I refuse to even consider acquiring in print format because of my experiences in the past. Even with that precaution, I have raised a few eyebrows when a curious visitor has taken the time to examine the physical books in my collection. I’ve got a small number of books that I’ve hidden away because I know that there are those in my circle that would not understand my interest in certain subjects.

Privacy hangups aside, my primary concern at the moment is physical. I have no desire to relocate to a larger home; in fact, I may choose to move to an even smaller place in the future to save money on housing. How can I juggle this? I already know that, should I decide to move that I won’t be able to take my entire physical collection with me. If a flood hits this place, I know that I won’t be able to take my physical books with me if I have to evacuate. The DRM limitations on ebooks purchased on major retailing sites makes me nervous; when I acquire a book, I want to keep access to that book, period. There are ways around that but those ways aren’t exactly considered politically correct. Even if I don’t share a single copy of an ebook I possess I may run afoul of the law at some point in the future if I pursue this avenue.

I do have the equipment now that will allow me to read PDF files and even make notes in them on my devices. It’s not the same as holding the physical book in my hand but it’s close. Books acquired in plain text take up even less space than PDF books; if the files are named with some sort of convention, they should theoretically be fairly easy to locate even in a sizable collection. Computerized search capabilities have improved immensely over the past decade as well to the point where computers can even search inside some PDF documents and they’ve always been able to search inside of text files.

I love the beauty of physical books but I’ve reached the point in my life where I need to make a decision. Should I continue to collect physical copies, or should I gradually transition to ebooks? And how do I deal with the fact that my physical book collection has outgrown the space that I have available? Am I being overly paranoid about the privacy aspect? Do I accept the risk of loss if modern DRM controls decide to block access from my ebooks, or should I seek a DRM-free source of any ebooks that I acquire? And should I focus on formats that I can read on any device I happen to possess or resign myself to a single ereader device that may become obsolete?

What book format do you prefer? Why do you prefer that format? If you were in my situation, a situation where space and privacy are major considerations, how would you handle it? Any and all opinions are welcome. I would like to hear a variety of opinions before I make any decisions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Categories
Decluttering Frugality Simplicity Wardrobe

The Sock Rebellion

I cannot remember the last time I purchased socks. One day I realized that I owned far too many pairs and decided not to purchase any more until the ones I owned wore out.

It is finally starting to happen.

This morning I grabbed a pair out of my bin to discover that both socks contained holes. As I examined them I realized that I could read my computer screen through the heel of the pair.

It is finally time to let them go.

It is amazing to think that I’ve owned a pair of socks for close to a decade. If a pair of cheap socks will last that long, why do we so frequently purchase new?

More importantly, what else are we discarding before it reaches the true end of its life?

This makes me wonder just how long it will be before I wear out the clothes I currently own. In the months since I placed a moratorium on clothing acquisitions, my wardrobe has barely budged.

How much of what we’ve been spending on clothes has been a waste of money? I mean, if a pair of socks can last a decade, how long will a tee-shirt or a pair of jeans hold up if we resist the urge to replace them?

Heck, I’ve got a zip-up hoodie here that I purchased back in the early 2000’s and it’s still going strong.

So why are we still buying clothes if our closets are overflowing and the ones we already own are still functional?

It’s definitely something to think about.

What’s the oldest item of clothing that you own and still wear? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism

Four Benefits of Becoming a Minimalist

I initially started down the path of minimalism before I knew the term existed. As a single mother, I discovered that the less I owned, the less time I had to spend cleaning my home. The less I purchased, the less I had to work. Since I wanted to be the best single mother I could be by spending as much time with my children as possible, I embraced the lifestyle of less.

At first, minimalism allowed me to save up enough money during the school year to allow me to take summer vacations off. I would spend every summer savoring my children. In time, minimalism granted me the ability to take several years away from the public workforce. I was eventually blessed with the ability to become a stay-at-home single mother for the last few years of my youngest daughter’s childhood.

I would have never been able to accomplish that if not for minimalism.

Even if you have no desire to live out of a backpack with less than 100 possessions, there are tangible benefits to living your life with less. Here are the four primary benefits that I have discovered:

Minimalism liberates your time

When applied to your schedule as well as your possessions, minimalism can free up large blocks of time. You can use that time to rest or focus upon your goals. I recently learned just how valuable a minimalist schedule could be when I started college last semester. By eliminating toxic friendships, simplifying my daily task list around the home, eliminating several time-wasters (primarily social media and news websites), and focusing on my priorities, I liberated enough time from my hectic schedule to study while ensuring that I got enough rest.

Minimalism reduces your finance burden

While the thoughtful application of minimalism causes you to eliminate unnecessary purchases, it can also allow you to save a small fortune on the two major expenses of life: housing and transportation. I have saved over $100 a month since I eliminated my van in 2014; that number would be even higher if I had possessed a car payment or had owned a vehicle that required full-coverage insurance. I know one person who reduced her auto expense by over $300 a month by eliminating her car payment.

A two-bedroom rental in this area currently costs around $500/month plus utilities. I cut that expense in half by renting a one-bedroom home at first. When my daughter suggested that we become roommates and split the expenses instead of her moving out, we reduced our housing burden even more. We have to be creative to cohabitate in such a small space but the savings (I spend around $200 a month for my portion of the expenses in winter) is immense. It allows me to work a part-time job so that I can focus in my priorities of college and writing.

While I don’t have as much to invest these days due to the expense of attending college, I am still able to set aside money each month, allowing it to build for a future investment.

Minimalism reduces clutter

Before making a purchase, a minimalist will ask if the item will provide them with a tangible benefit. In the case of many impulse purchases, that answer is ‘no.’ As a result, the minimalist doesn’t bring a lot of excess into their home. Over time, the minimalist also examines their possessions to determine whether the item is still being used. The unused items are eliminated, reducing clutter and the need to care and store the items in question.

In some cases, the purchase of a single item can eliminate a number of items around your home. When I purchased a small washer earlier this year, I reduced the amount of clothing I needed to own significantly. Rather than toss or donate the excess, I am using it up. I have eliminated a tidy stack of shirts and pants over the summer, converting many of those worn-out items into cleaning cloths that we discard whenever we use one to clean up something nasty. In time, I will have freed up a significant amount of space in this tiny home and saved a fortune on clothing as well. There is no point in buying new when I have such a surplus, after all.

Minimalism gives you peace of mind

When you can look around your home and know that you have nothing to do, that your home is clean and your tasks completed, you feel a peace of mind that many in this modern age never experience.

I first experienced that sensation when I moved here in 2011 after drastically paring down my possessions. It is so easy to clean and maintain a home that isn’t filled with clutter that you can easily tidy your home. Going to bed with the knowledge that there is nothing left for you to do allows you to sleep better than words can explain.

Do you know of any other advantages of minimalism? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism

Minimalism by Attrition: A Method to Help the Environment and Your Finances

Some claim that minimalism can help the environment (Becker, n.d.) but is this really the case?

When we first discover minimalism, we are excited. We feel overwhelmed and we just want the excess gone. So what do we do?

We sell some.

We donate some.

We toss the rest in the trash.

While many people do decide to actively sell their items or give them away to a friend or family member that can use them, many people decide to donate their excess stuff instead. Due to the large amount of donations currently being received from an overwhelmed populace, thrift stores are becoming overwhelmed (Martinko, 2019). There are a few thrift shops in this area that have stopped accepting donations as a result. Just the other day I walked past a closed-off donation bin; people had dumped their discards on the ground beside of it rather than locate a place that would accept their donations.

Is this good for the environment?

Due to the limited number of thrift shops accepting donations (and sometimes simply due to impatience), many simply decide to toss their discards into the trash. Mountains of unwanted items go straight to a landfill.

Is this good for the environment?

Think about it.

Now consider this: you spent good money to acquire your stuff. Unless you decide to sell it, that money is lost to you if you donate your excess items or send them to a landfill. All of the hours you worked to purchase those items are wasted.

Your discarded stuff equals hours of your life that you can never replace.

There Is A Better Way

Yes, you have too much stuff. I get it. I’m going through that now. Due to the purchase of a washing machine I now have far too many clothes. Due to a shift in how I write and keep records, I have an abundance of office supplies. Due to my love of knowledge (and the kindness of friends and family), I have far too many books for this tiny house.

What happens if I accept the fact that I own too many of these items and toss them in the trash, or find a place that is accepting donations and pass them on?

I learned part of the answer to that question the last time I became overwhelmed and pursued minimalism in earnest. I eventually wore out the items that I kept and had to replace them.

When I began thinning out my possessions in 2009, I had a closet full of clothing. By 2011, I was scouring thrift shops in search of pants after my last pair died.

If I had kept the excess clothing I would still have items that I could use today. Tee shirts and jeans don’t go out of style, after all.

This time around, I have chosen to do things differently. Instead of discarding my excess and literally throwing money away, I have decided to use it up completely. I placed my surplus in storage totes, leaving several items out to use. As those items wear out, I replace them with items from my surplus instead of shopping for more.

I cut up the worn out items and use them for rags until they completely die. Only then do I discard them.

This not only benefits me financially by practically eliminating my clothing budget at present, it benefits the environment by reducing the items that end up in a landfill before their proper time.

This is how we take responsibility for the excess stuff we have accumulated in our lives.

Instead of just passing the problem down the line to thrift shops, donation centers, and landfill managers, we should use the items we have purchased. When we refuse to buy more until our excess is depleted, we teach ourselves how to be responsible stewards of our possessions and we improve our finances in the process.

It is okay to want a new appliance. Keep your old one as a spare or pass it on to someone less fortunate who actually needs it. Even better, use your current appliance until it dies before you replace it with new. Stick the money for the replacement into savings so that you can earn a bit of money while you wait and you won’t have to worry about being broke if the appliance decides to die before payday.

It is okay to want a new car. Sell your old one to someone who will use it and acquire another.

It is okay to want a new computer or phone; just make it a rule to use the one you already have until it dies. Better yet, repair it when economically feasible to delay replacement for as long as you possibly can. Technology isn’t changing fast enough for it to matter much any longer.

And it is okay to want new clothes if you use up what you already have hanging in your closet first.

Since I’ve shifted my personal mindset I’ve had to cut up a small stack of shirts for rags. Several of those rags were used to clean some nasty items around the house and then discarded. When I ran out of tiny notebooks for use at work, I cut up some of my excess paper and used a stapler to make more. When we ran low on ink pens at my workplace, I donated some of my excess to the cause.

When a friend of mine revealed a fondness for romance novels, I gifted her with my surplus. She was delighted.

Bit by bit the surplus is fading in my tiny home. Bit by bit the items are being used up completely or passed on to someone who can use them. Bit by bit I am learning to take responsibility for the excess I have acquired.

And bit by bit I am easing the burden on the thrift shops and landfills by not adding to their problems by discarding useful items.

Will you join me on this journey?

References

Becker, J. Good for the Environment. Retrieved from https://www.becomingminimalist.com/benefit-good-for-the-environment/

Martinko, K. (2019). Thrift stores are overwhelmed with donations, thanks to Marie Kondo. Retrieved 7 August 2019, from https://www.treehugger.com/cleaning-organizing/thrift-stores-are-overwhelmed-donations-thanks-marie-kondo.html

Categories
Organization Productivity Time management

My Minimalist Daily Planner

I have spent a small fortune on planning and productivity apps over the years. I’ve vacillated between paper and digital so many times that it borders upon the ridiculous.

While I wanted to go completely digital, not one of the apps I purchased could accommodate my needs so I would end up purchasing even more apps, make the process more complicated, and give up as a result. If I found one I liked it would be out of date within six months to a year unless I paid even more for the new version or moved on to something different.

Paper planning methods were just as annoying. While the Bullet Journal method worked to a degree, I found myself having to migrate to new notebooks so often that it felt like I spent more time migrating than I did actually using the thing. The closest thing to paradise I discovered in the paper realm was a hard back planner that made my wallet scream.

Even worse with the paper methods, I quickly built up a large supply of used notebooks, which is far from ideal when you live in a tiny house.

After my last round of experiments I decided that enough was enough. My goal is to simplify my life, not make it more complicated with stacks of notebooks or constant app purchases.

I wanted a planning and record-keeping method that would use a minimum of space, could be easily viewed on different devices, not be locked into some sort of specialized software, and not cost a single penny.

Since that doesn’t really exist out in the world, I made one.

I modified the original idea in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I created a series of folders, naming them in a way that would cause them to sort automatically by date. I eliminated the need for monthly folders with my naming procedure and got to work.

Daily Folders sorted by date.

Each day gets its own individual folder that is named by the date and day of the week. Within that folder I created a text file for my work shift, and individual text files for anything I needed to remember upon that day or tasks I wanted to accomplish.

As the day progresses I rename the task files, placing an “x” in the front of the file name to mark the task as completed. I file relevant documents within that folder by naming them accordingly. A quick search on my computer will bring up personal items, photos, or whatever I am searching for without having to dig through the folders individually.

Daily tasks and notes are stored in the daily folders. Note the “x” in front of the completed tasks.

On the days I have time to journal I create a simple text file in the daily folder to log my personal thoughts.

Recurring tasks get copied into each daily folder in advance based upon when I want to take care of them. While I do keep a separate file with a list of tasks that I don’t need to do on a specific date, that is simple enough to maintain. I just borrowed the old plain-text format from the Taskpaper app I purchased ages ago and access the file from any plain text editor now that Taskpaper is no longer supported.

It has been a few months since I started experimenting with this method. To my surprise, it meets my needs perfectly. I am able to not only keep track of my daily life even on the go (provided I sync beforehand or have wifi access), I can even scan in any journal entries I decide to write by hand so it has actually ended up being a bit better than any method I have tried in the past.

While it does take a few minutes to create a new set of files each month I have no doubts that task could be automated if one ever decided to write a script for the process. I find it meditative to create them manually at the moment so I’ve not been motivated to even bother.

Accessing the Planner on the Move

I recommend storing the main folder (named by the current year) in the cloud if you want to access your planner on the go. For simplicity’s sake, create a folder inside the annual folder named “@Upcoming Schedule” to separate your archives from your future plans.

When you want to create a note for a future date, create a folder for that particular date and insert the note inside. You can copy emails, PDFs, or anything in there as a reminder.

This method is extremely simple and quite effective once you develop the habit of checking your daily folder every morning. I move the previous day’s folder up one level into the annual folder before opening up the folder for the new day to get started.

If you are sick and tired of experimenting with planning methods or paying a fortune for apps and paper planners you may want to consider trying this method. It is simple, platform-independent, future-proof, and completely free.

Even better, you can customize the method based upon how you work and keep track of things in a way that you find most comfortable.


What methods have you tried to keep track of your daily life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism

Can A Person Leave Minimalism Behind?

Not too long ago in the grand scheme of things I decided to leave the minimalist lifestyle behind. I felt that it was fine for someone who traveled a lot (or perhaps didn’t have a family) but that it no longer suited my needs.

Here lately though I’ve found myself looking around my home and wondering how in the world I managed to acquire so much stuff. While the majority of it is stuff I can use, it is far too much to use up in a reasonable amount of time.

For instance, thanks to the generosity of family and friends I have acquired a wardrobe that rivals the size of my original wardrobe when I started traveling down the minimalist path. Now that I’ve acquired a small washer I have no need for so many clothes.

My library has blossomed in the same way. I’ve collected books that I doubt I’ll ever read again but I’ve yet to let them go so I have to shift and dust them occasionally.

Throughout my home I can see little things that have started to collect in my life. There is nothing wrong with the individual items but as a collective they are beginning to feel a bit overwhelming in this tiny house.

So what does a former minimalist do when she realizes that she’s went a bit too far in the opposite direction?

This woman admits her mistake and begins to correct it.

Tonight I tossed several items that would be useless to others around me. The satisfaction I felt was immense. While I have no desire to toss perfectly useful items (or items I know I will use up in time), the act of eliminating a few of the useless ones was liberating.

Heading in the opposite direction has shown me that I was on the right path when I became a minimalist over a decade ago. While I’m not sure if I ever want to be as extreme as I was in the past, I’ve realized that life was simpler when I owned less.

I want to regain that simplicity as I narrow my focus to my immediate path.

I intend to contemplate this subject when I go to bed tonight. I want to think well on my next step before I move forward.

Before I leave I would like to ask you a question: can a minimalist truly leave the lifestyle behind or does it continue to affect them in ways they never imagined?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Housing Organization

The Value of Household Inventory

I opened the last tote of kitty litter this morning. As soon as I topped off the litterbox I sat down and penned a note to my daughter, asking her to order more come payday. We had 1.5 totes of cat food on hand, so I informed her that we would be good on cat food for this round.

This is a slice of the inventory method my daughter and I use to keep track of supplies in our home. I inspect our consumables on a monthly basis, ordering my portions as needed and leaving reminders for Katie to order her portion.

Daughter and I have worked out this method of dividing the expense of consumables over the past few years since she started working. The person whose turn it is to order is free (within reason) to decide upon which brand they select and we take turns or split the expense depending upon our current financial circumstances.

This allows us to not only turn over our mutual household supplies on a regular basis, it prevents us from running out and eliminates the issue of brand preference that we faced during the early days, as well as the feeling that one of us is shouldering the bulk of the burden.

How do you handle your household inventory and expense? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism

Minimalist Experimentation

Many years ago I took my readers along on my personal journey through Minimalism. I was overwhelmed at the time so once I discovered that owning less not only helped my finances but made my practical day-to-day life easier I jumped in with both feet.

I followed the advice of the experts of the day, eliminating not only the things I knew I would never use, but all of the excess I possessed of items that I knew I would eventually use as well.

That was a mistake. While it helped free up space and mental clutter initially, that move ended up costing me a small fortune and more than a bit of discomfort as I found myself running out of essentials like clothing during a time period where it was rather difficult to replace the items as they wore out.

I do not regret that mistake. I learned a valuable lesson from it; the educational value alone is worth many times what I lost by that misstep. It taught me that the theory of eliminating all of one’s excess is flawed.

Eliminating excess is a good thing. How you choose to eliminate it can cost you a small fortune and defeat the purpose of saving money.

Let’s face it: in this modern age, it is as easy to overspend on items that we use on a regular basis as it is to overspend on impulse items that we really don’t need.

If we are surrounded by spendthrift friends, it is easy to over-acquire even if we don’t spend a single dollar.

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the past few years. Not only have I accumulated a large amount of paper, pencils, pens, office supplies, books, and food, family and friends have gifted me with a significant amount of clothes, shoes, and other items.

These are items that I know I will use in time. I’m not too picky about the clothes I wear, the shoes I don, or the office supplies I’ve collected. That said, I live in a very small home. If I do not step carefully I will become overwhelmed with stuff.

I have no desire to become a hoarder yet I’ve no desire to cut back to minimalist extremes any longer. I want to maintain balance with my possessions.

It is wasteful in the extreme to discard items that you will use simply because you have a large supply. Throwing those items in the trash or donating them to an already overwhelmed secondhand store is not the solution. Many donated items still end up in the trash and it costs money to replace those items when you use up what little you keep.

It’s not what you spend or earn; it’s what you keep and use that matters.

Annienygma

Wealthy people do not buy unless they use up or wear out what they already own. Wealthy people don’t discard things if they know they will use them.

I learned that lesson during the days when I repaired the computers that were owned by my wealthy clients. Their possessions were old but kept organized and in good repair. Some of them shared stories with me of how they’d salvaged items from the trash that had been discarded by others, delighted to share their secret with a fellow cheapskate. They could not understand why people would discard perfectly functional items, only to replace them a few days or weeks later.

My goal is to become wealthy.

Instead of simply discarding my excess I am going to get creative. As I sort through my possessions this round I will eliminate anything that I know I won’t use. The rest will be stored away and used up as needed.

I’m not sure how successful I will be. Can I resist the urge to acquire more books until I read what I already have? Can I bring myself to pass on the books that I’ve read but don’t expect to read again? Can I resist the urge to collect more office supplies, clothing, or even food?

I don’t know. All I do know is that every penny I can avoid spending at this point can be invested towards regaining my freedom. I want my freedom back, so I am going to try.

I will keep you updated on my progress on this experiment.

Categories
Organization self-improvement Simplicity

How I Spent My Vacation

Last week I took the first paid vacation at a public job in almost two decades.

“What do you plan to do?” Curious friends wanted to know.

“Absolutely nothing,” I grinned.

I lied to everyone prior to taking those days off. I had something special planned to mark the start of my 49th year of life. While one day had been scheduled to completely rest, the remainder of the days would be filled to the brim.

I was going to sit down, think long and hard about my life, and make some adjustments to my course.

It was time to get serious. I’d proven to myself that I could actually make money in the stock market; I had seen firsthand that those who claim that only the “experts” could make money in the stock market were wrong. With a steady hand and a serene calm, I could use the lessons gained from a lifetime of poverty to grow my wealth to the point where I would never have to worry about working a public job ever again.

If I wanted to become truly free, however, I needed to make some changes. I needed to simplify my daily existence, review my annual and long-term goals, and organize my life accordingly.

It seemed delightfully appropriate to make these adjustments while on a paid vacation from public employment. I would get paid while I plotted my escape.

To prepare I set my normal reading aside to review the stack of productivity books I’ve collected over the years. I’m working more hours than ever at my public job so I need to maximize my productivity at home. This will become even more urgent should I decide to take a full-time job in the future. My book royalties are the key to my freedom; if I could figure out a way to grow my royalties, I’ll have more money available to invest towards my goal. Since it is the primary income source I possess that isn’t connected to how many hours I work in a day, I wanted to free up some more time to devote to it.

My question was this: What can I do right now that will simplify my daily life while minimizing expense and upkeep?

The answer: I needed to run my personal life more like a business.

I had become rather disorganized in my recordkeeping. As I explored minimalism, I’d stopped using files to organize my records, opting instead for a system of envelopes, folders, and notebooks that had grown exponentially more complicated as I began to track my research, investments, writing, and daily tasks. I not only had to carry a heavy daily planner to work, I used an even heavier journal to chronicle my thoughts, and I had to dig through a stack of notebooks over a foot tall in order to locate the proper one to record stock market purchases, observations, and other important information. I would spend hours pasting articles collected from the Internet into these notebooks, indexing them in yet another notebook just to keep track. Financial records were spread between a folder dedicated to my writing business, a folder and a notebook for my stock market investments, and my daily planner for personal stuff.

I could free up an immense amount of time and potentially a lot of money if I could devise one single, simple way to keep track of everything.

As my vacation approached I began to get nervous. Nothing seemed to click in any of the books that I was reading. The Internet was filled with planners and organization systems but I didn’t want to spend a fortune; I’d already spent a small fortune on my daily planners these past two years and they weren’t working. I had no desire to throw even more money away.

Two evenings before my vacation, inspiration hit as I was counting the tills and doing the closing paperwork at my public job. My trainer took that evening to show me their filing system. It brought back memories long forgotten of how, as a new single mother, I had invested a portion of my very first welfare check into a file cabinet in order to keep track of my records as I strove to improve my circumstances.

Over the next decade, that file cabinet morphed into a storage center for everything that had been important in my life.

Pictures of the kids? Filed in folders sorted by year. Tax records? Same. Inspiration had its own set of folders, sorted by my dreams. I even kept a series of folders to store my old journals and DayRunner pages. I could locate anything in moments by thumbing through my precious file cabinet, yet I had left that system behind due to years of teasing.

I am no longer the young woman who fell prey to social pressure all of those years ago. That kid has transitioned into an old crone who has learned the hard way that the advice of the people around her, however well-intentioned, is not always the best.

The first day of my vacation, I bummed a ride to Wal-Mart for supplies. Since I live in a flood zone I opted for plastic file totes. They will protect my files somewhat in the event of a flood and be easy to grab should I have to evacuate. I added some file folders to the cart, headed home, and got to work.

I spent the next three days reviewing every single piece of paper I had scattered throughout my home. I tossed the irrelevant stuff and filed the rest. To save time I simply tossed entire notebooks into file folders; as the days move on I’ll break those notebooks down to recycle the blank pages for notes and journaling paper.

I could feel the tension leaving my body as I filed things away. I hadn’t even realized that my old organizational method was causing me stress until I felt it begin to lift.

By the end of my vacation I had not only organized my files, I had devised a planning method that not only eliminates the need to carry around an expensive (and bulky) daily planner, it eliminated the need to keep a journaling notebook as well. I returned to work refreshed, recharged, and ready to handle the challenges of my 49th year of life.

It felt good.

How do you plan to spend your vacation? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism

10 Things Challenge: 20100409

All in all, it has been a busy few months, yet I feel that I am only beginning the journey I began when I started this blog.

I am not eliminating 10 things every week; but overall I am making progress which is the important thing. Already I have a closet filling with items to hand on to my sister, who lost all of her possessions in a move that went awry some time ago and has been slowly trying to regain the quality of possessions that she lost. She cherishes her things and feels the loss keenly so my gleanings are happily going to use rebuilding the possessions she loves, going to a place where they will actually be used (or passed on to someone who will).

The interior of my kitchen cabinets are becoming sparse in comparison to how overstuffed they were when I began.  Soon I will have to rearrange in order to better utilize the empty spaces. To celebrate my growing space I have a small batch of bread rising on the stove. A single loaf that will actually be shaped into dinner rolls to prevent waste—I can freeze them until needed which means that less material used, less wasted yet more enjoyment out of a single batch of bread. Even if I had the freezer space I do not know if it would be practical to make more than a single loaf for just me and a young child.

This morning to my delight I discovered that all of the towels I washed last night were dried on the makeshift line I created in the hallway.  This is a wonderful discovery, for it means that I can use the dryer even less! I may want to consider eliminating it from my life entirely if this continues as well as it is.

Oh, to be free of one more large thing! That would mean that the only real large items I possessed (besides the van) were the washer and the refrigerator!

So far today I have not eliminated 10 Things, unless you count the duplicates and lids, but such is life.

  1. Pyrex casserole dish with lid
  2. Large Pyrex baking dish with lid
  3. Smaller Pyrex baking dish with lid
  4. Two Pyrex pie plates
  5. Large Tupperware bowl with lid
  6. Plastic Pizza cutter (my knife can do the job)

All of these items were duplicates with the exception of the Tupperware bowl. Some time ago I had purchased all of the Pyrex bakeware I needed/wanted, but then I was unexpectedly gifted with another complete set.  He was so delighted at gifting me with something he “knew” I would use (he had been watching me slowly gather my Pyrex collection)!  Honestly, I was so astounded that he purchased me more of something he knew I had a surplus of that all I could do was politely thank him!

I kept the items and tried to use them for other things—in fact, some of the collection did get incorporated into my functional collection of bowls and storage containers, but the baking dishes were too much.  I have already given away several large Pyrex baking dishes so these are the last of my overstock (I hope).

This leaves me with one large and small Pyrex baking dish, two Pyrex pie plates, two Pyrex loaf pans, one Pyrex casserole dish, an assortment of nestable Pyrex bowls and a few Pyrex storage containers—all of which are used on a regular basis. Far from minimal to the extreme minimalist, but the perfect amount for me with the amount of cooking I do from scratch (and the occasional leftover).

It is time to shape the bread, so I must close for now.  I hope you have a wonderful day!

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism

Tossing Your Stuff is NOT the Answer

The other day I about fell out of my chair. Two DJs on the radio were discussing Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix.

What?

I could not believe my ears.

Back when I became a minimalist people thought I was insane. I caught so much flak for eliminating my excess and writing about it. I’ve got family members to this day who are convinced that the reason I tossed my stuff and started living on less was that I was lazy.

And now it’s went mainstream? To the point that local DJs are talking about it on the radio and Netflix has released a show on the subject?

I feel as if I’ve fallen into an alternate universe.

I don’t discuss minimalism so much now. I’ve settled into my life here. I’ve no desire to relocate so I see no point in living with as little as I did for a time.

While compared to many others I own much less than the average person, I currently possess too much to consider myself a minimalist. I learned that I prefer to keep my surplus and use it up instead of eliminating it, so that is what I’ve went back to doing. I also learned that I made a mistake when I eliminated my physical books. I do refer back to my nonfiction collection so not having them available when I needed to look something up was not an experience I wanted to repeat.

That said, I’m still a financial minimalist. A cheapskate, if you will. I prefer the security of living beneath my means, using the money I save to approach financial freedom from a different angle than I’ve done previously.

I just no longer believe that throwing all of your stuff away is the answer, because it’s not.

It costs more in the long run to replace discarded items than it does to keep them if you can manage it. It’s better to use up the surplus of clothing you already have than to donate it and then have to buy more when your current items wear out.

Tossing those excess items only compounds your initial mistake of buying too much in the first place.

I know this from experience. It sucks when you’re down to your last pair of jeans and they develop a hole in the crotch when you’re broke.

So unless you’re literally tripping over your stuff or spending a fortune to rent a storage building, I suggest you focus on what really matters:

Controlling your spending.

Use what you have instead of buying more. Ignore the trends. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. If they aren’t the ones paying your bills their opinion doesn’t matter.

Every single penny you don’t have to spend will take you closer to financial freedom and security. Even if you just stick that money in a savings account or stuff it into a mattress, you’ll be ahead.

You’ll have it if you need it.

I am begging you, don’t eliminate everything you own because it’s trendy. Keep your stuff and use it until it falls apart. That’s so much better than tossing it into a dumpster.

***

Hmm…maybe I should write a small book about this? I learned so much about myself when I explored minimalism but I’ve never really discussed the disadvantages of the practice in-depth aside from this. What do you think?

Categories
Organization Productivity self-improvement

The Habit Chain

It takes time to form a habit. Positive habits are definitely worth the effort to build. They can slowly transform our life from the mediocre into an absolutely astounding existence.

When remaking your life it is best to start small. Analyze the things you want to change about yourself and select just one to focus on. This is how Benjamin Franklin did it. He would chronicle his success and failures in a journal for a time before switching his focus onto another habit, in a continual self-improvement program.

This year I have three habits I want to create. I want to read a little bit every single day, I want to write a single blog post, and I want to scoop the litterbox.

I added the last one because I didn’t want all of my habits to just be about me. One must curate a pleasant environment in order to be at their happiest, and I really dislike the results of skipping a day when it comes to scooping that litterbox. My litterbox may be large but I prefer it to be as clean as I can keep it.

In order to get a running start I began my project late last year. I would write those three items down on the daily pages of my planner each morning, checking them off as I completed them. I soon realized that I was spending time re-writing those three things that could be better utilized elsewhere so I began brainstorming a solution.

I recalled reading somewhere about a comedian who would place an X on an annual calendar every single day after he wrote one joke. His goal was to keep the chain going.

I decided to try it. I placed an X over the day after completing every blog post and circled the date when I completed my daily reading. I experimented with placing another mark over the date for the litterbox scooping but when I decided that it made things confusing I printed out a copy of my annual page and stuck it in my Book of Lists to mark off there.

That comedian was right. It is incredibly motivational to have a chain of marks that you want to keep going. I’ve found myself completing my unfinished tasks near midnight just to keep the chain intact.

If you have a habit you wish to acquire I urge you to try it. Use this link to print out an annual calendar and start crossing out the days as you complete the task. It really does help.

Categories
Organization Productivity self-improvement

Preparing for the New Year

Twenty-eighteen has been an incredibly eventful year. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the previous stage of my life is ending and determined a new direction for my life.

I may not know yet how I’ll get to there from here. That’s okay. All I have to do is continue to move forward with my end goal in mind; the rest will fall into place in time.

The primary way that I maintain my focus on a daily basis is through my planner/diary. The book allots one page per day to keep track of schedules, tasks, notes, and highlights. This not only allows me to keep track of the things that I want/need to do but to look back and remind myself of what I’ve already accomplished.

One major change I have made in this habit over the past year was to finally settle on the At-A-Glance Diary instead of just using the computer or a cheap composition notebook as I have in the past. My plans are extremely important to me, I can afford the expense, and I’ve realized that it’s high time that I break myself of the habit of going cheap on everything. It is time I began to utilize the Diderot Effect for a positive purpose.

I’ve fallen into the habit of using a modified version of the Bullet Journal method of notation to log my entries. This allows me to jot down things as I think of them in a format that is easy to review. My primary changes are using a “$” signifier for financial information, an exclamation point (!) for important items (as opposed to an asterisk), a lower-case “i” to note informative/inspirational notes, the letter “w” for my writing, and the letter “s” for self-improvement items.

As I’ve prepared for what 2019 will bring I’ve transferred recurring events to my new planner and dedicated an empty page in the back for both my annual and long-term goals.

They are as follows:

Long-Term Goals:

  • Multiple streams of passive income. More than enough to live on comfortably.
  • Own my own home.
  • Long, healthy, active life.

I made a note after this set of goals to remind myself that I’m just hitting my groove. I’ve got 50 years of life left at a minimum with modern medical technology so it isn’t going to hurt one bit to utilize 20 of those years to attain my goal of financial independence.

2019 Goals:

With my long-term goals in mind, I sat down to figure out just what I wanted to accomplish next year.

  • Have a will created. I need to get in the habit of keeping one of these. Wealthy people understand the importance of these; since I intend to become wealthy I need to adopt this practice.
  • Acquire dentures. I want a set of partials to correct my smile as I move forward. This will not only improve my ability to eat, it will also give me an advantage as I strive to increase my income.
  • Acquire new eyeglasses. These will aid immensely as I study and continue to write.
  • Re-acquire driving permit/license. This will be necessary if I decide to invest in real estate or enter a field that requires me to drive.
  • Continue investing. I must keep moving forward, doing what I can do with what I currently have, if I want to accomplish my long-term goals so I cannot allow this to fall to the wayside.
  • Determine if a career change is necessary. This concerns my public job. I know I will have to keep a public job for the next few years at the least so I need to decide if I want to continue life as a cashier or take steps to shift into a different profession. This does not concern my writing and investing whatsoever–just what I do to pay the bills and earn extra money to invest towards my future.
  • Continue reading/studying. I’ve got a lot of educational ground to cover as I change my mindset and work out the best way to achieve my goal. This will be a priority to me.
  • Continue writing. I want to share my journey with others in order to provide hope and prove that one can accomplish anything they set their mind to. It will also serve as a form of personal clarification and therapy. I also want to brainstorm and write a new book before the end of 2019.
  • Change the stories that I tell myself. Life is 99% of the stories we tell ourselves. I’ve realized that I need to change a few of my personal stories. I’ll discuss this in a later post.

Now that I know where I’m going it will simply be a matter of keeping on track. To close out the year (and eliminate the stress of drama) I worked out what I could personally do about a private situation, took a deep breath, and got it over with. Now that I know I have done all I can personally do I am free to let that issue go and continue with my plans to move forward.

I refuse to allow anyone’s actions to derail my plans for my future.

Taking Care of My Now

I’ve done all I can do to prepare for next year so it is time to focus on my now. I made another small investment in the stock market to celebrate, I’m composing a list of things I want to tidy and sort around the house (I’ve let things slide due to stress), and I’ve resolved to have this blog back on track with the coming year.

Starting in January I will resume posting three days a week come hell or high water. I refuse to allow myself to slack but I do need to reduce my current workload for a bit as I mentally prepare for next year since I want to hit the ground running.

***

What goals have you set for the coming year? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering

Out With the Old

One of the traits I share with the wealthy is the fact that I like to wear things completely out before I discard them. I see no point in buying new when what I already own continues to serve its purpose.

Occasionally I allow myself to go beyond standard thrift and wear things well beyond their usable lifespan. I become comfortable with an item since I’ve owned it for so long and find it hard to actually let go. I am really bad when it comes to shoes; once they are broken in they become like old friends as they come along on my travels.

Three of my very favorite shoes have been screaming for retirement now for several months. While still extremely comfortable, the soles were giving out. A pair of favorite flip-flops even lost their bottom layer, yet I continued wearing them around the house, refusing to surrender to the inevitable.

Both of my daughters had passed on a number of pairs that could have easily replaced them but I still held on, even while occasionally tripping on the flaps that used to be sealed to the bottoms.

It is time I stopped doing this. I might not have a lot of money but I do have self-respect. It makes no sense to wear rags when I have other shoes to meet my needs. When I made the decision late last night I scooped up the first of the three pairs and tossed them in the trash. I dug out the remaining two pairs for one last photo before discarding them this morning.

I feel a sense of sadness as I move on today. That’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of loss but time moves forward and so do we. I will take comfort in the fact that I have nicer shoes to wear; shoes that are much more presentable than the ratty ones I discarded. I will also take comfort in the fact that I wore them completely out before I tossed them away. Bit by bit as time moves on I will slowly upgrade my wardrobe by attrition, saying farewell to the old me who wears rags as I dress a bit neater going forward.

Unlike in the past, I am not going to go crazy by tossing perfectly functional items as I follow some trend or whimsically decide I want to change my look. I will allow this progression to happen over time so the changes will be permanent while saving money as well.

Do you have anything around your home that has outlived its usefulness? Why not toss it out today and share your story in the comments below? That way we can celebrate together.