Categories
Decorating Happiness Organization self-improvement

The Amazing Power of Tiny Changes

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

Kevin Trudeau

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~#~

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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
Law of Attraction self-improvement

An Experiment in Luxury

It is amazing how quickly things can work out when you create an intention. Shortly after challenging myself to reverse the Diderot Effect in my personal life a friend came over to visit. Her granddaughter was moving in with her; did I happen to have any old children’s movies that I would consider selling on the cheap?

I pulled out my binders to examine my DVD collection. My Katie had been quite fond of Barbie movies and the like; I had built up quite the collection over her childhood. She selected several of them along with an assortment of other movies that she thought she would enjoy personally and we sat down to negotiate.

She left with a tidy stack of movies fifty dollars later.

I was fifty dollars richer; what should I do with the money? I thought about investing it but then remembered my challenge. I’d just written about how I would like to find some way to treat myself that wouldn’t hurt my budget; in a stroke of sheer luck, I now had fifty dollars that hadn’t been accounted for.

What could I buy for fifty dollars that I would never allow myself to normally purchase? Was there something that I wanted that wasn’t functionally necessary but that I dreamed of owning just the same?

I drew a blank. I’d become so conditioned to living cheap that I could not think of a single thing so I took the question to my daughter.

“What about that guestbook you’ve been admiring at Biancke’s for years?” she suggested. “Every time we go in there you flip through the pages and drool over it; I can’t count how many times I’ve heard you say that it would make the perfect journal.”

An image of the book immediately popped in my head. A large, well-bound book, it features numbered, lined pages that I had admired for decades. The restaurant had encouraged guests to sign in on every visit since I was a teenager and they had used the exact same style for as long as I could remember.

I had even asked where they bought their replacements once. I’d priced it and immediately choked at the cost.

It was far too much to spend on the luxury of journaling.

But now? Now I wanted something completely decadent. I wanted to allow myself a luxury so outrageous that it bordered on ridiculous.

And I wanted to do it on a fifty dollar budget.

Convinced that I’d never be able to afford it, I allowed the kid to persuade me to walk down to the restaurant for a closer examination. I was certain that it was out of my league but what would it hurt to look? If anything, I would find that book above my station and treat myself to a Moleskine.

I’ve never allowed myself to indulge in a Moleskine.

We braved the curious looks from the workers as we examined the heavy tome. Armed with the brand and model, we headed home to price one.

Ouch! Just as I anticipated, the book was almost $100.

“Maybe I should buy a cheap washer instead,” I suggested as I went to close out the tab.

“You’re always doing that!” Katie snapped. “You’ve wanted that thing for years–don’t tell me you haven’t! Buy something nice for yourself for a change! You’ve bitched about how thin the paper was in composition notebooks for ages. You’ve bitched about how you dislike journaling on the computer and now you’ve got fifty bucks that you can use to fix the problem. Let’s see what we can find!”

She shoved me out of the chair and hijacked the computer. Flipping over to the purchasing options, she discovered that Amazon had some for sale minus their original packaging.

The price was $53 after tax.

I allowed myself to buy that book. I can’t believe I did it, to be honest. I allowed myself to purchase something completely decadent and amazingly expensive, simply because I wanted it.

But oh my, it is absolutely beautiful.

It is beautiful. It is decadent. It is a completely selfish luxury. It is 512 pages of journaling bliss and I can’t believe the fact that it is actually mine.

It is the first real extravagance I’ve allowed myself for longer than I can remember.

I’ll have to conserve the pages. It cost too much to treat it lightly but in exchange, every time I use it I will be reminded of the fact that it’s okay to have nice things if you can afford them. It’s okay to treat myself on occasion.

It’s okay to want to improve my life.


Have you ever treated yourself to a completely ridiculous luxury? Please share your stories in the comments below. I need to christen this journal before I lose my nerve and send it back.

Categories
Finances Frugality Happiness

The Diderot Effect

The Diderot Effect has been used as a lesson against mindless consumerism since the minimalist movement began. The moral of the lesson is always the same: buying something nice will lead to us buying other nice things until we’re broke and miserable.

I was right on board with that thought from the beginning. Why should we strive to buy better things when we’re all poor in the first place? I reasoned. Wouldn’t it be better if we used what we had instead?

It would definitely be cheaper, I thought.

So that’s what I did for years. I scrounged around for free or cheap stuff and made do in order to save money. I kept it clean, used it till it died, and scrounged replacements as time went on.

Diderot’s complaint was that a gift of a fancy robe caused him to upgrade his entire home to match. He spent far more than he felt was appropriate and regretted his decision. His rant has been used as an argument against consumerism ever since.

Let’s poke at him with a stick. If we strip away the consumerism aspect his theory is simple: if we allow ourselves to upgrade one aspect of our lives, in time we will upgrade other areas to match.

Does this work in both directions? Let’s use my life as an example. Here are some pictures of my home before I became extremely frugal:




 


 

 

This is my bedroom now:


new bed

Note that every single item in all of those photos was paid for in cash. I purchased the furniture in the first photos secondhand. I didn’t break the bank to achieve the first look; I used what I had and accentuated it when time and money allowed.

And if I allow myself to be honest with myself, the first set of images suits who I am inside much better than the photo of what I’ve become.

In short, I am a living example of the Diderot effect. By focusing solely on what I could scrounge and exploring how low I could go financially, my external environment deteriorated as well.

What Can We Learn From the Diderot Effect?

We can see from my example that the Diderot effect works in both directions. In the first set of images, I started out by purchasing a bedroom set from a friend and accentuated accordingly. In the second…

…I’m not so sure how to explain the last photo.

While there is a risk of allowing ourselves to buy more than we can afford, if we curb the temptation to overspend, I believe that we can harness the Diderot Effect to improve our living circumstances over time.

An upgraded wardrobe, purchased used (or new when money allows), would provide improved job opportunities.

An upgraded home would improve our quality of life and allow us to attract, not only a different set of friends but a completely different lifestyle than the one we currently have.

So repeat after me:

There is Nothing Wrong With Improving Your Life

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your financial circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with affordable luxury.

We need money in order to live. That is a fact of life that, try as we may, we cannot escape in our modern society. There is no sin in improving your wardrobe bit by bit to gain a better paying job, and there is no sin in upgrading your home as you can afford it.

I’m preaching to myself as well here. Until I started this post, I’d no idea how far I’d fallen.

Oddly enough, my income hasn’t even changed much between the two photos. I had changed, and I hadn’t even realized it.

Harnessing the Diderot Effect

I’ve decided that it is time that I went back to the woman I was when I snapped those photos. She wasn’t ashamed of owning nice things; she bought what she could afford when she could afford them and savored those luxuries in her life.

She didn’t tolerate useless clutter but she allowed herself occasional treats. She enjoyed scented candles, incense, and a monthly box of inexpensive bath salts that she split with her kid.

She didn’t feel guilty when she went out to eat. She didn’t feel guilty when she bought a pretty dress at Goodwill. She carefully budgeted her money but allowed herself the little splurges when money allowed.

She wasn’t perfect; she allowed herself to be persuaded to live above her means around the time those photos were taken. She took out some credit cards and financed a washer and dryer that caused her to struggle. I suspect that attempt to move too far and too fast is what started her on the journey to where I stand today.

But if I learn from that experience, if I harness the Diderot Effect in a responsible manner, I should be able to improve my life dramatically.

I can go back to who I was again.

Confession and Challenge

This post ended far differently than how I originally envisioned it. I imagined that I would rant against consumerism like I have so many times in the past as I sat down at my keyboard. I worked myself up to a white-hot rage against my previous self…

…until I looked at the date on the original photos.

I wasn’t a mindless consumer back then. I had started down the path of minimalism, true, but I had used the philosophy to curate my life for the better. I had stumbled upon minimalism before it was a thing and I used it to better my life before I got swept up in the pissing contest of less is more.

I don’t like what I see that I’ve become. I’ve allowed myself to settle for less and less until I lost sight of who I truly am. I was so driven to live on less that I forgot that there is value in moderation.

Maybe Katie was right. Maybe I did deprive her in my desire to live cheap. I did it with the best of intentions but I can’t argue with the truth I see in those photos.

Seeing these photos made me realize a truth I’ve avoided facing for far too long. This post is the reason I decided to press the pause button on my blog and my life in order to rethink things.

I can’t change the past but I can learn from it so I’ve set myself a challenge. I am going to identify one item that I’ve denied myself for ages; an item that I could never justify purchasing under my previous mindset. An item that cheapskate me would never buy because it was far too expensive and served no practical purpose other than to provide me pleasure. I am going to buy it, just because, in order to prove to myself that I am worthy of owning beautiful things once more.

After that, I will begin to use the Diderot Effect to reclaim my life.


Have you noticed the Diderot Effect in your life? Has it been a positive or a negative change? Are you happy with the results of the effect? Please share your stories in the comments below.