The Joy of Freedom

I have spent the days after my final exam immersed in a new book project. I feel as if I’ve come back to life after walking through the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4, Revised Standard Version).

A part of me had been dying and I had not even realized it. Bit by bit, with every shift, I had been killing the spark that makes me, me.

The joy I have experienced while I sit at my computer, adding words to a book that will help people instead of slaving away at a job whose only purpose was to enrich a snobbish fuerdai is immense.

To think I almost surrendered that, almost allowed myself to drown in a lifestyle of slavish obedience is horrifying.

And I was almost there. A single phone call would cause me to drop everything, to abandon my studies and my life just so that I could race around the store of a man who barely acknowledged my existence.

And for what?

It certainly wasn’t for money. Almost every single business in this area pays starting workers more than I received as management.

It wasn’t entirely for pleasure. While I adored my coworkers and cherished my customers, I didn’t enjoy soothing growing lines of impatient shoppers while my “superiors” played on their phones and gossiped nearby.

So why did I do it?

I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it was the fact that I am surrounded by people in this area that believe that one cannot survive unless one spends their days making other people richer.

Perhaps it was the fact that I felt lost as my daughter became an adult.

Perhaps it was the constant criticism that I “needed to grow up” and get a “real” job for a change.

Or perhaps it was the doubt that seeped in after years of hearing people tell me that I couldn’t make it.

In the end, the “why” really doesn’t matter.

What really matters is that I would not have been able to do what I did–quit that job in an instant–if not for minimalism.

Jessica Dang of Minimalist Student states on her website that one cannot be truly happy when trapped in the rat race. At her post on the above link, she explains how we have become a society defined by what we own as opposed to what we do.

She makes some valid points. If you’ve not heard of her, I encourage you to visit her site.

Because she’s right.

We cannot be happy slaving away to enrich others. How can we be happy when we’re so exhausted after a shift that we fall asleep as soon as we sit down on the couch?

How can we be happy when we’re forced to drop everything and race to a job that threatens us with financial disaster through termination every time we become ill or need some time off?

How can we be happy when our financial lives are directly tied to the hours we are allowed to work, when the only way to increase our income is to spend even more of our lives at one or more jobs just to survive?

Why? Why are we so convinced that we need to devote our lives to enriching others when we have so much more that we would rather do instead?

Is it to become wealthy?

If that is the case then we are all screwed, because very few people ever become wealthy by working a public job.

The Odd Thing About Wealth

The odd thing about wealth is that the wealthy don’t define their wealth by the amount of money they have in the bank. They define their wealth by the amount of free time they have to pursue the things that they love.

Based upon that metric I am truly wealthy. I was able to quit my job without a backward glance. My bills are all paid and I just spent a relaxing afternoon with my daughter at the local coffee shop.

I didn’t have to check my schedule.

I didn’t have to check my bank balance.

I didn’t have to do anything but get dressed and enjoy my day.

You can do that too, if you want.

When the Seasons Change

As we move through this grand adventure called Life, we change. We have a period of development in childhood. A moment where we think we know all that we need to know in adulthood, then eventually reach the point where we realize that we know absolutely nothing in this grand scheme of things.

Transitions are typically marked by events. Moving away from our family, going to school (or not), working, starting families, retirement—all of these are simply seasons in the life we lead.

I wrote about this a long time ago. I discussed the belief that Minimalism can help ease the transitions we make in our lives by encouraging us to leave the person we were behind as we embrace the person we are becoming.

I embraced Minimalism with open arms when I first moved into this tiny home because of that belief. To ease the transition and reduce my moving expense, I eliminated everything I could. I ended up hauling the few items I chose to keep (mostly my daughter’s possessions) in a single vanload as I settled down to embrace her remaining childhood.

I find myself pondering that as I begin my second semester of college. Life was incredibly simple in those days. I slept on a futon on the floor. I used a coffee table from my childhood as my desk. Instead of spending my days cleaning, I spent my time living.

In hindsight, it was one of the happiest, most productive times in my life.

My Seasons marched onward. My daughter grew up. I embraced things again. Now I’ve embarked upon achieving a dream I’ve had since childhood. Yet instead of devoting every ounce of myself towards my goals, I find myself looking around this place and asking myself if the distraction of stuff is worth it.

I sit down to study only to look around and see things I need to do. The shelves need dusting. The cabinets need organizing. The floor needs sweeping. Each day I complete a list of tasks around this place before I begin, yet in the end there is always something more that needs done.

Is it worth it?

I am beginning to wonder about that.

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.

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

How Minimalism Can Help You Achieve Financial Freedom

In 2011 I broke free of wage slavery for my very first time. My book royalties had reached the point where I could live on them without the need for a job, so I quit it to achieve my goal of being a stay-at-home single mother.

I enjoyed that life for several years but I found myself too close to the problem when my royalties dipped. After struggling for a bit I went back to work to regroup for another attempt.

What I don’t discuss much on this blog is the fact that I would have never been able to make that first leap if it hadn’t been for minimalism. If I had not actively pared down my possessions and my spending, I would have never been able to quit my job to stay home with my daughter at all.

In hindsight, I realize now that my pursuit of minimalism was behind my ability to take summers off to stay with my daughter for several years previous to achieving that goal. By limiting my purchases and my household expenses, I was easily able to conserve enough money to support us for several months each year.

In light of that fact, I must confess that I haven’t given minimalism the credit it deserves in my success. Even now I apply minimalist practices to my life as I prepare for my next, hopefully permanent attempt to achieve financial freedom.

Anyone can do what I’m doing. While your individual circumstances may be different, the act of reducing what you own and spend can make a massive change in your life. If you add a passive income source into the formula, you have the secret to attaining complete financial freedom.

How to Attain Financial Freedom

  • Look at your life right now. Chances are you have stuff you rarely (if ever) use, rooms that stay empty the majority of the day, and a vehicle or two you rarely (if ever) drive. Eliminate them. If you can sell the items for extra cash, use that money to pay down any debt you may have and build up an emergency savings account. Don’t worry about investing at the moment; right now we’re just trying to reduce the amount of space you need and how much money you need to survive.
  • If your home isn’t paid for (or the payments extremely low), consider moving to a smaller home as close to your job and basic shopping (such as a grocery; Wal-Mart delivers these days) as possible. If you own your home, consider renting it out to develop a passive income stream. Use caution if you owe a mortgage on the property. Unless you can rent the property for more than the mortgage payment (and have enough set aside to cover any down-time between tenants as well as some basic repairs), you may end up struggling financially whenever your tenants move out. If you can manage it however, that passive income will take you closer to freedom.

I need to note here that this was the primary way that my daughter and I managed to minimize our expenses. By ruthlessly minimizing our possessions, we transitioned from needing a two-bedroom home down to a one-bedroom, slashing our housing expense immensely. I shopped around until I located a rental in town that was extremely cheap to maximize the savings. It wasn’t in the prettiest area of town but since we don’t own the things that thieves like to steal (and we keep to ourselves), no one ever bothers us. We managed to cut our housing expense in half (more, considering that local rents have went up a bit since we moved here) as a result.

By eliminating our excess possessions we also eliminated the need of having to rent a self-storage unit as well, which saved us a few dollars more each month. We also benefit from lower utility bills year-round since it costs significantly less to heat and cool a smaller home than a larger one.

  • As a result of selecting a smaller home that was close enough to stores that offered the essentials like food, we were able to eventually eliminate our next largest expense: our vehicle. We both walk to work, hitching rides with coworkers and friends occasionally when the need arises but for the most part we can easily walk wherever we need to go. At first, however, we simply settled upon a nice older van that we purchased for cash, since financing a vehicle can almost double the price you pay for it if you aren’t careful. This allowed us to gradually transition to a life that didn’t require a vehicle for our daily needs.
  • Limit your exposure to advertising. Advertising is designed to make you feel insecure if you don’t spend your money buying the stuff they want you to buy. Traditional television programming is filled with advertising so the fastest (and easiest) way to drastically cut down on the advertising you are exposed to on a daily basis is to eliminate it. If you enjoy watching shows and movies, consider investing in a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. Since many modern televisions allow you internet access, you can continue using it while limiting your exposure to ads that are designed to make you feel insufficient. I noticed an immediate change years ago when I cancelled our cable television subscription. My children asked for things less frequently and I personally noted a desire to purchase less within days of cutting the cord.

There are other ways to cut expenses but those are the ones that will save you the most money. If you wish to learn how to lower your expenses even more, I urge you to read my book The Shoestring Girl. It goes into detail about how I manage to live on $500 or less a month.

Once you have pared down your finances to the point where you know how much money you need to live on each month, proceed to the next section.

  • Develop a passive income stream. The Internet has created an immense opportunity for those who decide they want to escape the rat race of wage slavery. You can share affiliate links (like I do on this blog occasionally) to promote products and services that you believe in. You can develop your own products to market and sell on a website. There is a huge demand for steamy romance novels currently, so if you enjoy fantasizing about that, you could turn those fantasies into a passive income stream by publishing them online. I have a number of friends who have become quite wealthy doing just that. In fact, I have explored that option personally. While I am much more comfortable sharing my personal experiences to help others, you may find that writing romance novels both enjoyable and lucrative. If so, I highly recommend it. My friends report that they receive thousands of dollars a month in book royalties from their romance novels, and E. L. James became very wealthy simply by converting a piece of Twilight fanfiction into a book series.

For those who have no interest in writing books or internet marketing, don’t worry. There are things you can do to develop passive income streams as well. The most lucrative of those is in real estate. You can purchase inexpensive homes (mobile homes, even) to start out. Clean them up and rent them out. You’ll have to go around once a month to inspect your properties and collect the rent but that is a lot less work than having to show up each day at a 9-5. There are many books available that will help guide you through the process.

You can also invest in dividend-paying stocks as well as bonds. Both of these provide a somewhat stable income stream (no form of passive income is perfect). I am currently investing in dividend stocks as an additional passive income source for when I decide that I am ready to reduce or eliminate working at a public job again.

I highly advise you to create at least two passive income streams before you decide to quit your day job. Things can happen that will cause your passive income to drop, if not disappear. Everett Bogue discovered this the hard way and ended up stranded in Japan. He was forced to sell his laptop for air fare back to the states. I would link to that story but it is old news and has faded from the internet. He is currently working two jobs to survive.  I experienced this personally when my book royalties dropped to the point where I felt the need to return to a public job. If I had been smart back then, I would have heeded the warning his experience provided and adjusted my life accordingly. I could have easily invested enough money back then to have eliminated the need to go back to working at a public job. I didn’t, so I am paying the price of that mistake now.

  • Eliminate your debt. Every debt you eliminate will take the amount you need to live on even lower. While a credit card can benefit you if used wisely (pay off the balance each month), credit as a general rule is verboten. You want to spend your money enjoying your life, not funding the excess of the bankers. The only possible exceptions to this rule would be to finance rental property or to invest in a class that will teach you how to grow your passive income further. Use extreme caution before making these decisions.
  • Build up an emergency fund. You need to have several months’ worth of expenses saved away in an easily accessible interest-bearing account in the event your passive income takes a slight dip or another emergency arises. In hindsight, this was one thing I did right. I stashed away my excess money each month when my book royalties were high. That enabled me to survive for quite a while as my royalties began to drop.
  • Develop your passive income stream to the point where it will more than cover your normal expenses before you decide to stop working. This way you can invest the excess into dividend-paying stocks, bonds, or another form of passive income source such as real estate. This way, even if your current passive income remains stable (or drops a bit), your passive income will continue to increase over time.
  • Once you have created an emergency fund, paid down or eliminated your debt, reduced your expenses as low as you comfortably can, and developed a passive income stream that more than covers them you can safely make the leap. You can reduce the amount of hours you work gradually or eliminate working entirely.

Even now, by following these precepts, I am able to work only part-time instead of getting a full-time job. My monthly expenses are lower than ever now that my daughter has become my room-mate, so we have taken advantage of the situation by investing our excess money and using the time gained to our advantage. Katie enjoys eating out and spending money a bit more than I do, so she has opted to work full-time since she likes to keep busy. She still manages to set money aside each month into her savings as well as attend college full-time by paying as she goes. Like her mother, she has an aversion to debt.

I have money left over from my part-time paycheck every month. I combine that with my (once again) growing book royalties to invest in dividend stocks. I use the extra time I have available to go to college as well, take care of my home, and to write posts like this one that will hopefully help others achieve their own financial freedom.

If you found this post informative, please take a moment to share it with a friend. You may help them realize that they don’t have to be trapped in the chains of wage slavery forever. They too can achieve financial freedom if they want.

If you have already achieved financial freedom (or are working towards that goal), please share your story in the comments below. We all benefit when we share our knowledge.

If you have a blog of your own, consider writing a piece about this post. Do you agree with these steps, or do you feel that something is missing? Be honest in your comments. This will help others learn from our beliefs and experiences. If you feel that my experiences will help your readers, let me know so that we can arrange an interview. If you feel that your personal experiences may benefit my readers, email me as well because I would love to interview you. You can reach me at annie at annienygma dot com.

Have a great day,
Annie

How Minimalism Can Help You Eliminate the Distractions in Your Life

I woke up bright and early this morning with the basics of a game plan formed in my head. Rather than tackle the excess things in my life at first, I decided to tackle the distractions instead.

Distractions can take many forms in our life. It can be anything from that task that you keep procrastinating on to the massive amount of junk mail that hits your inbox. Anything that keeps you from applying your full focus to your life and your goals can count as a distraction.

I tend to get a large amount of junk mail in my inbox. Every single website you visit these days tries to strong-arm you into signing up for their mailing list so they can spam you. In many cases, that big pop-up gets in the way of actually seeing their content, so you plug in your email address just to make it go away. If you purchase something from a website, they flood your inbox with new “deals” in an attempt to part you with even more of your hard-earned money. Normally I delete it en-masse once a day but I realized that I lost a few minutes of my life each and every time I completed the action.

One by one I selected these messages and directed them to go straight to my junk mail folder. That way, if I ever do discover that I’ve missed something important I can search for it within that first month. After that they get deleted automatically, eliminating the need for me to deal with them every single day. I decided upon using this method rather than unsubscribing from them individually since some websites can make that a challenge. Frankly, they can waste their time emailing me all they want. It doesn’t mean that I have to read them.

It may take a few days for me to complete the process. Websites have different email schedules so I’m certain that there are a few that I missed in my initial sweep.

Once that was complete, I decided to tackle one project that I’ve been procrastinating on. Over the past few months one of the keys on my keyboard had starting sticking and the scroll button on my mouse began to behave erratically. Since I had been in the middle of writing when the incidents happened I’d swapped them out with spares and set them aside to examine later.

Later had yet to arrive by this morning so I decided that it was time to either toss the peripherals or attempt to fix them.

Since one of my dogs sheds immensely, I realized that the issue may be a combination of dust and pet hair. These were common issues back in the day when computers were much more expensive so I had learned a long time ago how to clean them. I pulled out my supplies and got to work.

Thirty minutes later I had restored both peripherals to functionality. Tackling the project had not only eliminated the small stack of non-functioning peripherals I had placed in an obvious spot as a reminder, it allowed me to remove “replace spare keyboard and mouse” from my shopping list. By extending the life of these devices I saved money and eliminated the need to send them to the landfill.

When you consider the fact that it would have cost half a day’s wage to replace them (more if I selected the higher quality that I prefer), I count the half-hour of cleaning as time well spent.

Since there was always the chance that one of the marketing emails would catch my attention and induce me to spend, I also saved an unknown amount of working hours by sending them to my junk email folder automatically.

Since I count every moment saved and every dollar conserved as progress towards my goal I consider today to have been a successful one so far as a result of my actions. Less than an hour from my life now allowed me to reduce the amount I have to work to achieve freedom by a half-day or longer.

Today is a very good day.

If you find your inbox filled with junk mail each day, create a rule to send these emails to your junk mail folder automatically. If like me, you don’t want to risk using spam filters (since they have a habit of discarding important emails as well), you can create the rules manually with your email software. This will not only eliminate the temptation to spend money but will free up the time that you normally spend deleting them.

And if something breaks around your home that you believe may have a simple fix, I urge you to take a look at it before you toss it in the trash. Since it’s already broken, you don’t have to worry about making it worse if your attempt is unsuccessful. In many cases a thorough cleaning may solve the issue, saving you a fortune over time.

How have you minimized your time and expense lately? And do you have any suggestions about what I should tackle next? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

On another note, I have made it a personal goal to restore this website to a regular posting schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I am not quite sure how I will find the time to write three quality posts a week along with my studies but I am in hopes that by applying minimalism to my daily life that I will liberate more than enough time to accomplish my goal. Please bear with me as I strive to achieve this, and feel free to offer suggestions.

Also, if you found this post helpful I would be immensely grateful if you would take a moment to share it with a friend. I refuse to add to the advertising that the world is inundated with on a daily basis so the only way that people discover me is when they learn about me from a friend. I hope that you will spread the word that I help others simplify their lives so that they can better focus on their personal goals.

Thank you.

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.

The Facebook Fast

As time ticked closer to the start of my first semester I began to worry: where would I get the time to attend college? I work more hours than ever at my public job; between that and my writing business (not including my regular household duties) I was already approaching my limit.

Perplexed, I revisited my old friend Minimalism in search of ideas. Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unimportant to provide space for the important. This process is different for everyone. Some may want to eliminate excess stuff from their lives to free up space and finances while others (like me) may simply need to carve some time out in their busy lives to focus on achieving a lifelong goal.

I spent the next several days simply observing my life as I asked the question How do I spend my time? As busy as I was, I knew that I didn’t spend every single moment involved in productive endeavors, so my goal was to locate the primary leak in the ship of my time and eliminate it.

The answer came fairly quickly. Each morning as I sat down with my coffee I would open Facebook to see what my friends had been up to and respond to the messages that had arrived during the night. As I moved through my day, I noticed that I spend a tremendous amount of time responding to messages from family and friends as I strove to accomplish my daily tasks before I went to my public job.

Sometimes these conversations would become so distracting that I would lose track of time and have to rush to finish my necessary tasks before racing out the door.

My evenings weren’t much different. Each night I would plop down in my computer chair to relax and unwind a bit from my shift. I would open Facebook automatically and continue the procedure.

Sometimes I would spend so much time there that I would barely be able to keep my eyes open as I completed my nightly reading ritual before going to sleep.

I asked myself: Did I receive anything beneficial from the time I spent on Facebook each day?

The answer was a resounding no. While it was nice to keep track of my friends and family, there was nothing there that was truly relevant. Whenever someone in my life did share something important, they usually contacted me directly to distribute the news.

I took a deep breath. I have friends who enjoy reaching out to me about the minutia of their day on Facebook. I enjoy hearing from them and sharing pieces of my personal day as well. Could I truly limit or eliminate my time spent on the platform in light of this knowledge?

Eventually I decided to re-phrase the question: Would anything bad happen if I eliminated Facebook from my daily habits?

The answer was no.

I reached out to my friends and explained the situation, encouraging them to use email when they needed to reach me for something important and then I summoned my resolve and eliminated Facebook from my daily routine.

The results were astounding. That very first day I actually found myself bored.

I was so startled at that boredom that I actually celebrated. I’d not experienced boredom—true boredom–since I was a child whiling away my summer months in the Mountains. The sensation was enlightening.

We tend not to realize that the simplest of actions can have immense repercussions. Turning on the television after work can result in an evening wasted. Hanging out with friends can cause one to lose track of time so that they have to rush to accomplish their tasks (if they get done at all).

And turning on Facebook to browse the Feed can result in a journey down the Rabbit Hole of Distraction that can steal a shameful amount of hours from one’s life.

My life has changed for the better since my decision to turn my back on Facebook. Now that I have stopped visiting my Feed, opting instead to check my messages once or twice a day instead of lurking in the lives of others I have more time for myself as well as my studies.

I can wake up, drink my coffee, and perform my daily tasks with time to spare each day. Depending upon when my shift starts, I am now able to grab the occasional nap before I head in so that I can arrive refreshed instead of exhausted.

In the evenings I can turn on some relaxing classical music, curl up with a book, and feel the tension draining from my body at the end of the hectic day.

I am calmer now that I have time to spare. The persistent tension between my shoulder blades is now a memory. I not only feel better physically, my mind is developing a clarity I hadn’t known was possible.

Time is Finite

Each moment we spend, for good or ill, is lost forever. Instead of spending those moments thoughtlessly, manage them as carefully as you manage your finances.

Unlike money, time is something we can never regain once it’s gone.

Think well before you waste it.

What one item in your life can you eliminate to regain your time? Please share your stories in the comments below. If you found this post helpful, share it with a friend as well.

You might change their life for the better.

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.

Minimalism, Cash Flow, and Turnover

One of the ways that businesses maximize their funds is by utilizing turnover to increase their cash flow.

Instead of purchasing a year’s supply of whatsits in order to make their widgets, they instead purchase just enough to get by for a certain time period like a week or a month.

The store I work at uses this principle. They receive two shipments a week so the general manager strives to order just enough stock to make it to the next shipment. This allows them to maximize their profit by turning over their stock on a regular basis.

It’s not a perfect science. Unexpected bad weather causes runs on such things like bread and milk but overall, in the time I’ve worked there it is quite effective.

Restaurants and other businesses do the same thing. I’ve worked many a time where we had to stretch our supplies through the evening because our truck wasn’t due until morning.

I’ve been thinking about that lately. I’ve always been a “more is better” person. I feel safer when I have stockpiles on hand. I spent so many years in economic uncertainty during my marriage that I tend to stock up instinctively. I did that not too long ago with groceries and I’ve got a stockpile of paper, clothing, and other items that demonstrates that I returned to those old habits several years ago.

That said, I’m beginning to wonder if some facets of minimalism might make economic sense. I can order supplies online on an as-needed basis. I can pick up groceries during my shifts at work. I’ve got an emergency fund established and my income is fairly stable these days. Do I really need to stock up as much now as I have in the past?

In some cases, stocking up makes financial sense. Purchasing melamine sponges (magic erasers) in bulk saved me a small fortune. But in many cases, it might not be as wise.

What if, instead of buying certain items in bulk, I instead purchased them only as needed? I could use the money saved to make more money that way. If the cost difference between buying as needed and buying in bulk is negligible, I may come out ahead in the long run.

I would definitely free up some space in this tiny house if I applied that principle.

I have decided to experiment as a result. I have placed a moratorium on certain supplies I have in bulk like paper, pencils, pens, clothing, and food. I no longer need a large wardrobe since I can now wash clothing on a daily basis and the other items can be quickly attained either online or locally when I need them.

If this girl can conquer her fear of lack, she may be able to not only free up some space around her home but to increase the amount of money she has available for investment each month.

With that thought in mind, instead of purchasing a three-month supply of flea treatment for my pets the way I normally do, I opted instead to purchase just a one-month supply for my dogs. The lone cat we have (Loki died a while back) has enough to last him for a while.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?

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!

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?

Evaluating My Possessions

My daughter and I make a point of going through all of our possessions at least once a year. This allows us to refresh our memory about the items we own, reorganize these items to better accommodate our current life, and to figure out what we need to buy (or not buy) for the coming year.

As we were sorting through one section my daughter held up a tennis racket. “Where did you get this?” she asked.

“I thought it was yours,” I replied.

Katie chuckled. “Me, play tennis? You’re joking, right?”

I thought for a moment. “Maybe Little D brought it over to play with when he spends the night,” I suggested, naming my grandson.

“If he did, I’ve never seen him use it,” Katie replied.

“Fair enough.”

With that, we eliminated the mystery tennis racket from our life. There’s no logic in keeping something that never gets used!

Regardless of how much or little you own, everyone should go through their possessions occasionally to make sure that they aren’t holding on to things they don’t need or use. Why store something if you don’t have to? Owning things for the sake of owning them is just plain stupid. Why spend your precious time and money hoarding useless crap?

This week’s challenge is simple. Go through one area of your home and eliminate everything you don’t need and use, then share the story of your success in the comments below.

Have a great day!

It’s Okay to Own Things

It’s become fashionable to throw things away. Out with the old, to make room for the new. There are even groups out there that will help you get rid of your things and encourage you to eliminate as much of your stuff as you want.

I know. I was one of them.

In time I realized that the Minimalist movement had devolved into little more than a pissing contest; a competition to the bottom. “I’m better than you, because all I own fits into my backpack.”

“Tough,” someone might respond. “I got rid of my backpack last week.”

There is some good to be had in the Minimalist movement. If you find yourself overwhelmed with possessions, especially if you have reached the point that you are tripping over stuff, you might need to thin down.

However, unless you’re preparing to move house or backpack around the globe it’s not really beneficial to get rid of all of your things, especially if you use and enjoy them.

The trick is in the using. If you have a cabinet full of dishes that you’ve not touched in years, you might want to pass them on to someone who will enjoy and actually use them. It doesn’t make any sense to clutter up your life with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually use.

Now that I’ve decided to settle down in this little town I’ve allowed my possessions to increase as a result of my revelation. I enjoy reading so I collect interesting books when I stumble upon them for free or cheap. I keep a decent-sized collection of unread material now but as I read them, the ones that I know I won’t need for future reference are passed on to friends or donated to the local library.

When I stumble across a clothing stash that someone is giving away that actually fits (and is something I will wear) I add the items to my wardrobe. I discard the pieces as they wear out.

I don’t go crazy buying things but I do make room for things that come into my life that I will actually use. Since I have no intentions of moving in the near future (and I am nowhere near the point where I’m tripping over things), this allows me to increase my comfort level while saving money as well.

You should start doing this as well. Once you eliminate the things you really, truly, do not use, don’t hesitate to add something you will use to your collection of possessions if the price is right (preferably free, of course!).

Just remember that this isn’t an excuse to start buying everything in sight. If you have something that does what you need, use it instead of buying new. Just because you can own it doesn’t mean that you should.

Minimizing Relationship Stress

It’s painful to watch friends self-destruct, to watch them slide down the slippery slope of insanity. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You’re unable to turn away. You reach out your hand, only to have it slapped away time and again. Either they realize they are slipping and don’t care, or they’re enjoying the ride. Regardless, you try to help.

Eventually you realize that this person is causing you misery. You dread your encounters. Instead of offering them another hand up, give them your foot–to shove them out the door of your life.

There is no shame in this. It is not beneficial to keep people in your life simply because they are friends or family when all they do is give you pain. Loyalty is stupid when the person in question bites the hands that feed them.

Minimalism is about so much more than stuff. It is about curating all aspects of your life to bring peace and tranquility. While you cannot eliminate all of life’s storms, you can reduce the day-to-day strain on your emotions.

Today I urge you to look at your relationships. Determine that one person you would be better off without.

Then let them go.

Is Your Life in the Black?

I ran into an old friend the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for several years so we took a few moments to catch up. My friend announced proudly that he had recently purchased a house, showed me his car, and bragged about his high-paying job. He was a little worried about making the new house payment but his wife had just started her own business selling cosmetics for a popular company. Could I attend her party in a couple of weeks?

I must confess that the conversation left me feeling somewhat small. While he regaled me with the size of his paycheck, the square footage of his new home, and other things, all I had to share was that I had written a few books, lived in a small rented home, and earned minimum wage at a grocery store. The little trips I take to help animals achieve a better life couldn’t hold a candle to his latest vacation overseas so I didn’t even bother to mention them.

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. Over the past few months even my daughter had told me that she looked down on my simple life; while she was thankful that I had sacrificed higher paying jobs in order to spend more time with her as she grew up she bluntly announced that she might have been better off if I had ignored her wishes and spent more time making money. She would have had fancier things that way.

Was I really such a failure that my own child looked down her nose at my simple lifestyle? The look on my friend’s face when he discovered that I didn’t even own a car spoke volumes.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching since that fateful encounter. I’ve examined my life thoroughly as I asked myself did I make the right decisions? If not, should I start making changes? Should I apply for a job at a local factory where a friend of mine earns almost a thousand dollars a week with overtime? I wouldn’t have the time to write anymore but I would make a lot more money. I could buy a car, save up for a house, buy some nicer clothes….

I was still tormented by these thoughts when the first of the month rolled around. As I calculated my monthly budget and paid my bills I realized something: I could pay all of my bills before they came due. I didn’t have to struggle. I don’t toss and turn at night wondering where the money is going to come from to pay my electric bill. I don’t have to hide a car to avoid repossession until I could make the payment. I’m not driving around on expired tags because I can’t afford to put insurance on my vehicle as some of my friends are doing. I don’t cringe when the phone rings and I’m certainly not in danger of losing my home because I failed to pay the back taxes.

I’m operating in the black. Each and every year my writing business pays to support itself. It has done this from the beginning. For a few years there it also brought in enough money to support my simple lifestyle without the need for a public job. While it may not be able to support me currently it is still earning a small profit.

While far from rich I have enough in the bank to pay my bills without struggle every month. I can afford the things that I need without having to rob Peter to pay Paul. I’m able to splurge on some extras and save up for more expensive items. I even have a small savings account that I contribute to.

And unlike my friend who looked at me askance when he discovered what neighborhood I called home, it doesn’t take multiple jobs to support my lifestyle. I am able to live on minimum wage at my part-time job, which allows me time to pursue my passion of writing. I have even been able to take time off from working entirely over the years and savor the experience of being a stay-at-home single mom without having to sacrifice my morals to do so.

Even better, my simple lifestyle granted me the ability to recover from an injury that would have bankrupted many that I know. It enabled me to quickly regain my financial footing when I was able to start working again.

I may not have a fancy car or a luxurious house. I may not be able to take fancy trips or turn my friends green with envy but the truth is I have something far more valuable.

I have peace of mind. I can go to bed at night without worrying over unpaid bills. I can take time off work to help save the lives of unwanted animals. I have the time to make the world a better place by sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

I can afford to pursue my passions.

Do you live in the black? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Recharging

Between work, volunteering at the local animal rescue, helping my friend get sorted, and the myriad other things I’ve been doing lately my batteries ran down. I felt myself growing less and less energetic as the days wore on.

When the kid woke me up on my day off to spend time with me before she went to work and I found myself still feeling exhausted, I decided that it was time to recharge. As soon as she left I locked my door and went back to bed.

I turned off the ringer on Google Hangouts so I wouldn’t be disturbed by phone calls. I muted all notifications from everyone. I ignored the things around the house that needed to be done in favor of giving myself what I needed: rest.

I spent the day sleeping. When I wasn’t asleep, I stayed in bed and read a book. I turned on some music during one trip to the bathroom but other than that I didn’t touch my computer. I didn’t even bother to answer the door when people came knocking.

I feel a lot more rested this morning as a result. True, the house didn’t get tidied and my friends are wondering why the heck I dropped off the face of the earth for a day but that’s okay. I needed time for me, and I took it.

This is minimalism at its finest. Reducing or eliminating the unimportant to make space for what you truly need. As a result of my impromptu vacation from Life, I’ve had the energy this morning to work up several blog posts and take care of some other writing duties that I had started to fall behind on.

Life has a way of sweeping us along with requests and obligations for our time that can overwhelm us before we realize what is happening. If we’re not careful the day will come when we wake up, not because we want to, but because we have so many things we need to do for other people.

Every so often, we need to take some time to recharge. Turn off the phone, disconnect the Internet, curl up with a good book, or just sleep. Ignore the door when somebody knocks. Unless it happens to be Emergency Services (you can always peek out your window and check), everything else can wait until tomorrow.

When was the last time you took time to recharge? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Maintaining Balance

Back to school season is always a bit hectic around here. A local church hosts a free yard sale that is packed with donations and yard sale discards that would normally end up in the trash while the local clothing closet has a yard sale where you can purchase bags filled with the clothing of your choice for a dollar apiece.

Along with that we have to go to school registration day and make the trip to WalMart for Katie’s and Donavon’s (my grandson’s) school supplies.

Each of these acquisition trips are accompanied with purging. When new clothes come in, old clothes go out. The ones that have been worn into rags are discarded while the items that are in good shape are bagged up and donated to the local clothing closet for them to either distribute among those who need clothing or to sell during their bag sales.

This is one way that we maintain balance in our lives. Since our space is limited, we refuse to allow our possessions to grow beyond what our house can comfortably handle.

What do you do to maintain balance?

Seven Truths About Minimalism

Modern minimalism is misunderstood by many in this modern age. It is believed that if you can’t fit all of your possessions in a backpack then you are not a minimalist. The truth about minimalism is far different.

I have practiced minimalism for close to a decade now—I didn’t even learn that I was a minimalist until several years after I began my journey. These are the truths I have learned from my experience. The true key to minimalism is to find the balance that works for you. I sincerely hope that this list helps.

  1. You can own things and still be a minimalist. The trick is to not allow yourself to become so attached to your possessions that you sacrifice your quality of life to acquire and care for your stuff.

For instance, say you decide to make a cross-country move or to travel. Instead of either discarding the desire or financing an expensive move (or storage in the event of travel) you eliminate everything but the essentials to reduce the cost and ease the burden of logistics. In the event of a disaster, you toss your essentials into a bag and bug out, leaving the rest to fate. If something happens that destroys your home, instead of mourning the loss of your possessions, you know that you have the most important things with you and just move on from the experience.

If your possessions begin to overwhelm your home, instead of spending money to rent a storage unit (or moving to a bigger home) you eliminate the excess until you get to the point where you are comfortable again.

  1. You can have children and still be a minimalist. You can even own pets if you want. While you can’t eliminate your children (and shouldn’t eliminate your pets) in the event of a move or a financial crisis, you can have these in your life and still practice the minimalist lifestyle.
  2. Extreme minimalism is not practical for the long haul. While it is a wonderful way to live while traveling and can save you a fortune in money and a bunch of headaches, if you decide to settle down in one place for a period of time minimalism can become a burden. You will end up sacrificing more time and money than if you were to stock up on certain items.

For instance, if you only purchase the minimum of personal care products (soap, shampoo, bathroom tissue, etc.) at a time, you will spend more money in the long run to keep yourself supplied. If money gets tight you might not even be able to afford these things. Therefore, buying larger containers and stocking up when items are on sale makes practical and financial sense if you are going to stay in one area for a time. Few things are more awkward than getting holes in the only two pairs of pants that you own when you can’t afford to replace them.

  1. Minimalist alternatives to certain items can be more expensive than traditional choices. Multi-function appliances and devices tend to cost significantly more to purchase, maintain, and repair then traditional items. A washer-dryer combo costs more to purchase and can be difficult to get repaired in the event of a failure than owning individual washer and dryer units. EBooks can cost more than purchasing a used copy of the physical book. Digital copies of music and movies can cost significantly more than picking up physical copies at yard sales and thrift shops. If you enjoy owning the books that you read, the movies you watch, or the music you listen to, you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing used physical copies over purchasing the digital editions in many cases.
  2. Extreme minimalism over time can become uncomfortable. It is nice to have a bit of variety in your wardrobe or to have a comfortable bed to sleep in. A simple table and chairs can work wonders for the comfort level of your houseguests. While you don’t need near as much as society wants you to believe, a certain amount of possessions can make life much more pleasant. It is nice to have a refrigerator to store cold items. It is wonderful to own a hotplate or some other way to prepare food. It is incredibly convenient to have the ability to toss things into a washing machine instead of having to arrange a trip to the Laundromat. If you live out in the country, lack of transportation can turn a pleasurable experience into a nightmare, and trying to read for long periods of time on a computer, tablet, or similar backlit device can put excessive strain on your eyes and cause headaches.
  3. Long term minimalism is best accomplished by baby steps. Drastic changes have a habit of backfiring into regret. It is best to start small by thinning out one area at a time to eliminate the obvious excess. Continue this procedure until you reach your personal level of enough.
  4. Everyone’s version of minimalism is different. We each have our own set of preferences and habits that will affect the choices we make in our possessions. For instance, I don’t like television so I don’t own one but I do have an assortment of older laptops that I use daily. Someone else may prefer watching television or playing games on a television but have no desire to own a computer. Instead of a collection of computers, they might own a television and a variety of game systems or media players. Neither choice is wrong if they fit the lifestyle of the person in question.

If you are thinking about pursuing the minimalist lifestyle, consider these facts before you do anything drastic. They may mean the difference between enjoying a better life of being miserable from what becomes a failed experiment.

Back to the Futon

I wrote here that I had been sleeping in my sleeping bag again.

However a couple of nights ago I fished out the futon again and went back to sleeping on it.

Why?

For one, it’s out of my closet.

Two, I don’t get twisted up inside of it when I toss and turn.

Three, it’s easier to get out of when I have to make a trip to the bathroom at night.

The bathroom one is the biggie. I’ve about killed myself a couple of times half asleep thinking I’m out of the bag and trying to take a couple of steps!

Anyhow, I’m not eliminating the possibility of sleeping in a bag in the future but for now I’m back to the ole’ faithful futon.  Maybe I should just cut it down to a single size and be done with it..(maybe I’m too lazy to do that much work too…).

I haven’t done much  downsizing lately, though I have noticed that my dishes are done more often now that I have downsized my silverware collection, so I have less dirty dishes piling up the place—a very good thing…

Anyhow, gotta take a moment to give some kudos to David for eliminating a huge shelf and downsizing his car.  He has also downsized his apartment to one half the size (and $400 less a month) and only needs 10 boxes to move now! David, you rock dude!