Categories
Minimalism Simplicity

How to Find Out What’s Essential to You

Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm from the water treatment plant nearby alerted me that the river was up again.

I know my days are numbered here. While flood waters have only entered this house once in the past, eventually it will happen again. I have already seen them lick the bottom of my floor joices. I would be foolish if I believed the waters will never go higher.

When I first moved here I dealt with the inevitable future by playing the scenario out in my head: if I ever had to wade out, what is the absolute minimum I would want to save? I’ve grown lax in that practice so it is time to start again.

I believe that all of us should keep that scenario in our head. It allows us to focus in a time of crisis. No matter how safe we believe that we are, things can happen that are beyond our control. It always pays to be prepared.

As I lay in bed I asked myself that question. I wouldn’t leave until I absolutely had to but when that time comes, I will only have one chance, one load that I can haul out of here. What would I choose among the things I’ve collected over the years?

To my surprise, the answer was easy. I’d grab my laptops, my backup discs, my birth certificate, essential other identification papers, and a change of clothing. The pets would wade out with me so I would not have to carry them. The kid is old enough and wise enough to make her own selections. One large duffel, if that, would be sufficient to hold the bare essentials.

All of the rest I could let go.

I wouldn’t worry about saving the photos of my parents. I’ve scanned them into my computer over the years so I have digital copies. The books can be replaced. Clothes can be replaced even easier; as long as I’m covered I don’t really care about what I wear anyway. I’ve even got scanned copies of my essential paperwork–though I wouldn’t want to trust my future on scanned copies.

As long as I had my digital files (and a computer to access them), I know I would be okay. I may miss the individual physical items like the pictures but the loss wouldn’t be complete. And of all the things I possess, my computers would be the most difficult to replace–especially if I were flat broke. The files would be almost impossible.

Now that I know what is essential to me I can arrange things in advance. The older computers and backups can be stored in a bag for a quick getaway. As for the rest, I know that I can pare it down or not depending upon my mood.

As we march along this new year with talk of World War III on the news, it pays to know the absolute minimum you would need to take with you if you ever had to start over. One never knows when a war or a natural disaster will force you to abandon everything.

Today I urge you to ask yourself: if you had to abandon your home right now, what would you take with you not including your pets or your family? If you had time to carry out a single bag, what would that bag contain?

Please share your selections in the comments below.


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
Frugality Simplicity

Is it Socially Acceptable to Save Money?

As I look back upon this year, I realize that the majority of the criticism that I’ve received concerns how I choose to spend (or not spend) my money.

Among the things I’ve been told:

  • I should rent or buy a bigger home.
  • While I’m here, I should spend money painting and decorating my current home, despite the fact that I neither own this place nor intend to live here forever.
  • I should purchase more clothes, despite the fact that I have more than enough.
  • I should definitely go to college, but I should go to a more expensive school in order to acquire a “better” education–to earn more money.
  • I really “need” a car, despite the fact that I don’t go anywhere.
  • I “need” a high-paying job.
  • I need to invest in a modern, high-end computer since I love them so much.
  • I need to buy (insert item here).

These criticisms are usually framed in a back-handed way in an attempt to mask the criticism:

“I admire how you want to live a simple life, but you really do need to get a bigger place. It’s ridiculous that you sleep in the living room.”

“I understand that you want to save money, but would a bucket of paint kill you?”

According to the people I interact with, I “need” to acquire a larger home so that I can have my own bedroom. I “need” a traditional cook stove and a standard-sized refrigerator. I “need” to toss my perfectly serviceable kitchen table and replace it with new. I “need” dentures, new clothes, matching dishes and many other items.

When I ask why I “need” these things, I’m informed that I’m depriving myself or given long-winded speeches that are hard to decipher.

Why is this? Because I’m definitely not depriving myself. I’m content exactly where I am.

Is it because my life is so different from others that I receive this criticism?

Is it because they believe that I am secretly judging them?

I don’t have any answers to these questions but when combined, it makes me wonder if it is socially unacceptable to avoid spending money to keep up a certain appearance in our society. It makes me wonder if we’re programmed to own certain things, to spend our money in a certain manner not because we care about the items in question, but just to fit in.

I asked a friend about it once over this past year. She informed me that we need to own a certain amount of stuff, of a certain quality because it tells the world that we are doing “okay.”

Why do we care what the world thinks?

More importantly, who gets to decide what we buy or don’t buy?

Could this be why so many people are struggling in our society? Could it be that we are programmed by social pressure to own things that are meaningless in the grand scheme of things to the point where we jeopardize our financial security just to acquire them?

As we conclude this decade, I would like for you to ponder this situation. Have you ever felt pressured to acquire something or live a certain way, to spend money that you wouldn’t ordinarily spend?

If you removed the social pressure, how would you live? What would you spend your money on? What would you stop spending money on?

In short, why do you buy the things that you do? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Minimalism Recycling Simplicity

Has Consumerism Tainted Minimalism?

Minimalism is the act of eliminating the unimportant in order to make room for what is important. That seems simple enough at first glance. However, a deeper look at the subject reveals that there may be a darker force at play.

From The Minimalists to Marie Kondo we receive advice to throw out or donate our old stuff. It doesn’t matter if the items are perfectly functional or if we could use them up in time. These things contribute to the chaos in our lives so they must be eliminated.

But what happens to the things that we discard? Many of us, either through impatience or lack of time simply throw these things into a dumpster. Others who realize that it only passes the problem on to our overburdened landfills choose to donate the items instead.

And what happens after the house is clean and simplified? The things we choose to keep eventually wear out, forcing us to purchase even more. In some cases we may go on an acquisition binge that doesn’t stop until we find ourselves overwhelmed with stuff again so we repeat the process by eliminating even more.

Who benefits when we throw our perfectly functional stuff away, only to replace it when we wear out the items we actually keep? Our wallets certainly don’t but the companies that produce the items do.

Let’s ask another question. What would happen if, instead of discarding our excess, we placed a moratorium upon future purchases until we used up the items we already own? Who benefits the most from that scenario?

Our finances would benefit because we’ve stopped buying stuff we don’t need. Our finances would benefit again because the act of using up and wearing out our current overstock of possessions would eliminate the need to buy more for an extended amount of time. The landfills would benefit because we wouldn’t send things there until the absolute end of their useful life. Donation centers would even benefit because it would reduce the amount of donations they have to sort through and discard in the search for saleable items.

Big Business wouldn’t benefit, however. Their sales would go down because we wouldn’t purchase near as much. The clothing industry would take a major hit because they could no longer persuade us to buy the newest fashions. Even the appliance and electronics industries would feel the pain because instead of buying “newer, bigger, and better” we would hold on to the things we already owned instead of discarding them for new. The only industry that might benefit from this new paradigm would be the storage industry—until we used up our excess to the point where we no longer needed the storage, that is.

While minimalism in the short term may benefit us with clean homes and empty spaces, the questions I’ve asked above make me wonder about who truly benefits in the long run. It makes me re-think my decisions in the past to discard the things I’ve discarded.

This also makes me wonder if my grandparents were smarter than I gave them credit for. They used the things they acquired until those items died and then recycled the pieces into other things to extend the usable life of their purchases even further. I’m beginning to wonder if we all need to start doing that.

To be honest, I would be surprised if I discovered that there was a conspiracy to encourage us to throw away our stuff just to entice us to buy more. That said, I do believe that we need to rethink our actions when it comes to the pursuit of minimalism.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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
Recycling Simplicity

When Older is Better

I took the opportunity to visit the computing section of a major store yesterday. Reader John had posted on Facebook about how laptops have gotten to the point where not even the keyboards are easily replaceable so I wanted to confirm his complaint. To my dismay, every single laptop offered for sale was designed in a way to make replacing the keyboards on modern laptops difficult to impossible. The entire machine would have to be dismantled just to get to that one failure-prone component. Thank you for bringing that to my attention, John!

In the past, laptops were designed so that someone skilled in computer hardware could replace a number of components. Keyboards, hard drives, RAM, and other components could be swapped out–not necessarily with ease, but it could be done. That is no longer the case today; computer manufacturers don’t want us to hold on to our machines so they’ve designed them to be almost impossible to repair. Given the prices I noted during my visit to the store yesterday, it wouldn’t even pay to have a tech replace the components.

Software has reached a similar point in evolution. If you want the “latest and greatest” version of Microsoft Office, you have to pay a monthly fee for the priviledge. The same goes for Adobe and a number of other programs. You can’t even enjoy a simple game of Solitaire without either paying for a subscription or being barraged with ads.

One of the saddest aspects of this reality is that it has gotten to the point where those who possess an older computer have an advantage. With the exception of the Front-side Bus (FSB) and a few other areas, older systems are actually faster and more powerful than the new ones being pushed upon us. The software that came bundled with those older computers didn’t require the payment of a monthly fee just to have access to the programs, either. Even better, you didn’t have to deal with hateful advertising whenever you wanted to relax and play the simplest game.

Software companies realized this. That is why they’ve eliminated the ability for these older computers to go online. It is nigh on impossible to get Windows XP to even go online these days; the last time I reinstalled XP I had to fight just to get it to activate. One of the last safe-havens in Microsoft, Windows 7, will soon face that fate as well.

I refuse to participate in this nonsense. Forcing people to view ads or pay for subscriptions only serves to line the coffers of multi-million dollar corporations. Forcing people to discard computers because they have been designed to be irreparable contributes to the destruction of our environment and only serves to rob the average person of money that they could better use elsewhere.

I started my personal rebellion by deciding to keep my ancient Windows XP laptop in service. It was the only operating system that could support the expensive multi-meter software I purchased for my computer repair business, as well as being the only operating system that could play some very old games I liked to play from the days of Windows 95/98. I’d also invested in an old copy of Microsoft Office and some other programs that I didn’t want to have to purchase again so instead of discarding that old laptop I kept it around. The speakers are shot on it now but I just connect an external speaker when I need sound.

I will use that laptop until it dies. If I have to I will dig up an older XP desktop so that I can avoid having to spend $$$$ on replacing that software because no damn tech company is going to force me to buy their damned subscriptions.

When I decided to purchase a desktop computer, I purchased a refurbished business machine. For under $400 I bought a desktop that blows away the specs on modern desktop computers. It came with Windows 10, which allows me to go online in relative safety when the need arises. I’ve already went through a couple of keyboards since I purchased it so the decision to go with a desktop was obviously a good one.

Thanks to Reader John, I will aim for older refurbished systems should I ever decide to purchase another laptop. I want to be able to repair my systems at least to a degree. I refuse to contribute to the madness by making the tech companies richer than I have to. Even better, it will keep those older systems out of a landfill for a few more years.

If you find yourself in the market for a new system I urge you to consider the purchase of a refurbished business-class desktop or laptop. Those systems are designed to be somewhat repairable. You can locate videos online if you want to do it yourself. If you happen to have an older system already (and have no need for the software it currently contains) you may want to consider installing Linux in it instead of purchasing new. Linux has grown to the point where they even offer it on new laptops these days (the OS in Chromebooks is Linux), so it is easy to install and use now.

Whatever you do, do not encourage the hardware and software companies to continue this madness. Don’t let them bully you into paying for a subscription or buying a new computer. If enough of us boycott them, hopefully they will end this madness. If not, at least we will be hitting them where it hurts–right in their wallets.

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
Financial Freedom Minimalism

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.

Categories
Happiness Minimalism

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.

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
Finances Happiness Life Simplicity

How to Live an Intentional Life

It takes a bit of thought to sort through the chaos and programming to determine just how you want to live your life.

My first trip down this path was simple in comparison. I had one goal I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be a stay-at-home single mother for my daughter, so I did what I had to do in order to make that happen.

Life isn’t static, however, so once that goal was complete it was time to set a new intention.

Throughout your life, you will encounter different phases. When you’re young, you may want to go out and see the world or strive to be on top of the world through your career choices. As you start a family, your focus may change to becoming a good parent, to raise your children in a thoughtful, responsible manner.

And when your children are grown, you will have to figure out what you want to do with yourself once your children are gone. Depending upon what you’ve already experienced, you may simply be tired and want some time to recharge.

There is nothing wrong with that.

I honestly believe that we will never have it all “figured out.” We will never be able to set a single path for our life because life is a journey with many different paths to choose from. Instead of trying to figure it out, trying to figure out a single path to follow until the end of our days, we simply need to determine what we want in the foreseeable future and head in that direction.

In my life, I’ve realized that I want to acquire the financial stability required in order to eliminate the need to work a public job. While I doubt that I will ever want to stop working entirely (sitting around the house can make you stir-crazy), I do want to have that option.

I want to focus a bit on my health as well as grow a bit mentally and emotionally, and I’ve also realized that writing is a part of who I am now. Even at my lowest points I search for a meaning that I can pass on to help others. While I never imagined it being more than a hobby when I first started blogging, it has now become a major focus of my life. I am okay with that.

I’m going to share with you the steps I’ve decided to take in hopes of giving you an idea as you decide upon the path you want your life to follow. I may not have everything figured out but that’s okay. I’ve got a basic plan and that’s all you need as well to get started.

In order to achieve financial freedom I will continue living beneath my means. I’ve changed my plan a bit to accommodate the fact that I want to reduce some of the stress on my life, however. I intend to take 10% of everything I earn (passive or active income) and place it in the safest investments that I can over time. This is based upon the advice given in George Clason’s book The Richest Man in Babylon (Clason, n.d.). In this book he stresses the need to keep 1/10 of any income earned to save and invest in the most cautious manner possible. I’ve decided to combine his advice with that of Michael Cheung’s from the book Sun Tzu The Art of Making Money: Strategies for Getting Through a Tough Economy. He discusses the importance of having a good foundation in place to establish financial security. (Cheung, 2012). To fulfil that need, at first the 10% will be used to fully fund an account that will only be accessed in the direst of emergencies. The overflow from that account will be invested in the safest investments I can locate over time. The money I have left over each month after the 10% deduction will be saved up and invested as usual, though perhaps not quite as often, since investing fees can add up on smaller stock purchases.

This new procedure will allow me to hedge my bets as I move towards my ultimate goal of financial freedom.

Since I prefer a simpler, calmer life I intend to simplify the things around me, eliminating my excess over time as I move forward. I’m wiser now from my previous experience with minimalism and I intend to use the wisdom gained. Instead of simply eliminating the excess I’ve acquired I have resolved not to purchase more until I actually need to. I will use up the items I already own instead. I see no point in donating them to an agency where they may end up on a landfill (due to the surplus already available at thrift shops) until they have reached the end of their usefulness. Items that I know that I won’t ever need again will be passed on to the best of my ability.

As you can see from my example, it doesn’t take an immense amount of work to reconfigure your life. With just a bit of thought and planning you can not only enjoy your present but slowly work towards the life of your dreams.

What steps can you take to lead a more intentional life as you work towards your dreams? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

REFERENCES

Clason, G. (n.d.). The Richest Man In Babylon.

Cheung, M. (2012). Sun Tzu The Art of Making Money: Strategies for Getting Through a Tough Economy. 1st ed. Allysky.

Categories
Finances Minimalism Retirement

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

Categories
Minimalism

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.

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
Minimalism Productivity

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.

Categories
Car-Free Finances

A Slice of Slavery

Katie had to walk to work in the pouring rain this morning. I grieved for her as she headed into the downpour to walk the mile-long trek to her public job.

I’ll have to do the same in a couple of hours.

I could sit at this keyboard and whine that life isn’t fair; why can’t we own vehicles like the others do?

I could sit here and juggle my budget. I could pull some money out of my investment accounts, buy a car, and eliminate the discomfort.

But if I do that, I will never be free.

I will be just like my friend, who is nervously awaiting a heart cath and possible stents at the hospital this morning. Even though they are aware that she is having the procedure, her job scheduled her to work tomorrow.

She could very well have complications. She could very well die, but does her job care? No. All they care about is her next shift.

I can’t even go up to the hospital to be with her because I’m scheduled to work and I can’t afford to take off. If she’s still there at the end of my work shift I’ll walk up to take her home or keep her company, however it goes.

This is the life of a wage slave. Forced to work until we drop, then replaced like we are nothing.

They don’t even want us to realize that there is a better way. They don’t want us to know that we can learn how to play the games that they play so we don’t have to trade our lives for money. That is why they brainwash us at school to go to college, rack up a lot of debt, get a job, and buy, buy, buy.

They want to use us up and spit us out because we are nothing to them.

Guess what, World? I know that there is a better way. I know from personal experience that one can achieve financial freedom. When the kids were young I would save up my money to take summers off to be with my kids. When I learned how to write and publish books I used that to stop working at a public job so that I could savor the remaining years of my youngest daughter’s childhood. Despite my lack of formal education (or perhaps because of it) I managed to do what most consider impossible. I was a stay-at-home single mother for years.

I made a few missteps. I over-estimated just how stable my royalty income was. That is why I will be walking in the rain to work today as I stress over the fate of my friend at the hospital instead of sitting at her side.

Instead of whining about my mistake, I choose to learn from it. I learned that there is a better way. I learned that we don’t have to be a slave for the entirety of our lives.

And I am angry enough to run with that. I am angry enough to do whatever it takes to beat those bastards at their own game, to not only improve my life but to show others how to do it as well.

I know what I’ve got to work with. I’ve got this writing business. I’ve got a public job that might pay shit for wages but is stable with a few benefits. I am an expert when it comes to saving money, and I understand the basics of investing.

Somehow I will figure out how to make this work. The day will come when my daughter won’t have to walk to work in the pouring rain. The day will come when I won’t have to do the same, when I won’t have to force myself out of bed at ungodly hours to get stuff done before I head to a public job because I know I’ll be too exhausted at the end of my shift to work towards my goal. The day will come when I don’t have to decide between paying my bills and being with my friends when they need me.

We deserve to know how to escape the chains of wage slavery. I intend to learn how, and I intend to teach others how to do it.

I will be free and I will teach others how to be free if it is the last thing I do.

You have my word.

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
Finances Minimalism

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?

Categories
Car-Free Finances Frugality Investments

Desire and Frustration

I underestimated just how heavily it was raining as I left work yesterday afternoon. By the time I realized that I should open my umbrella it was far too late. I was soaked to the bone.

“I have got to increase my income,” I muttered as I sloshed my way home. If I acquired a full-time job making just $10 an hour, I would basically double my current income. I could afford the extra maintenance and insurance expense of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, I would have to work the same shift with someone I completely trusted to actually show up every day in order to earn the money to afford a vehicle, or sacrifice a lot of time walking to and from one of the local factories with my current transportation situation.

Basically, I’m caught in a Catch-22. I need to earn more money in order to afford a vehicle, but I need a vehicle in order to work a job that would provide that money.

That f*cking sucks.

So what can I do now, with what I currently have, in order to meet both short and long term goals?

I gave that a lot of thought last night.

I am already making progress. I’ve got an optometrist appointment scheduled for later this month. That is the first step in re-acquiring my driver’s license. Once I purchase a new pair of eyeglasses I will feel safe about applying for a driving permit. Once I attain that permit, I’ll have to wait around six months before I can even think of taking the driver’s test.

I am in the process of building my credit. To make myself feel better about my progress, I sent the credit card company $20 to pay off my current balance with money to spare. I’m doing everything I can do in that area, so after I made the payment I moved on to the other areas of my life.

Each day I restore at least one of my older posts to this website. Each day I work a tiny little bit on a new book that is in the works. It is still in the initial stages, but that book may provide a little bit more money to invest in the future.

Each night I read before I go to bed. I’ve got plans to attend the latest library book sale on my next day off in hopes of acquiring more books to further my education, so I’m doing everything I can do in that area of my life.

I am keeping up with reading the SEC filings on the companies I’ve invested in and plan to invest in at some point in the future. I pitch in a bit more money each month towards my investments. Other than pinching my pennies even further, I’m doing all I can do at the moment.

Since I’ve managed to reduce my smoking expense from 7-8 packs a week down to 3-4 packs a week, I’ve even managed to increase the amount I have free to invest. That means I’m making more progress in both areas of my life right there.

So what can I do now, on top of what I’m already doing, to meet my goals? I turned that question over a thousand times last night. I am busting my ass, burning the candle at both ends, just to do the things I’m currently doing.

Yet there are two tiny Baby Steps that I had missed.

I had yet to initiate my plan to stash half of my raise into my emergency fund. While I had established the savings account and transferred my emergency fund over in order to start receiving interest on the money, I had yet to sit down on payday, calculate half of my tiny raise, and transfer it over.

I pulled out the pay stub I’d received earlier in the day, calculated half of my raise, and transferred the money over. It wasn’t much, but it’s better than nothing.

Then, in order to signal to myself that I was serious about eventually acquiring a vehicle, I created yet another sub-account. I added $10 to that one.

It’s a measly amount, but at least it’s something. At least I am actively saving up, not only to purchase a vehicle, but to cover the cost of insurance, repairs, and maintenance when the time comes when I feel comfortable to buy. I’m not sure how much I’ll add to that fund each month, but as long as I do something, it will be better than nothing. It will be a lot better than bitching and complaining whenever I grow frustrated.

I will have something to show myself that I am taking steps to reach my goal.

But last night it just didn’t seem like I was doing enough. Ten dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money I would require to feel safe to even consider purchasing a vehicle.

Depressed by that thought, I sat down and cried.

I gave myself a few minutes to feel sorry for myself, then I washed my face and got back to work. I am making progress, even though it doesn’t feel like it. All I have to do is keep working. The rest will come in time.

I pulled out my Success notebook, the book where I write down motivational passages and encouragement. I read every page. Motivated by that, I read one more chapter in my current business book and went to bed.

I can do this. I don’t know how I’ll manage things yet, but at least I’m making progress. I will channel my frustration into white-hot rage, converting it to the fuel I need to keep moving forward.

This is about more than me. I want to prove to the whole damn world that just because you’re poor it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. I will learn how to run with the big dogs, and I will teach others how to do the same.

I’m gonna do that if it’s the last thing I do.

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.