Does it bring me joy?

I stumbled across a movement called minimalism this week, and it has really struck a chord. In some ways I have always been a minimalist. However, it’s not an idea that I had formally considered, so I haven’t fully incorporated it into all areas of my life. I think it’s time, now.

I found this 21-day minimalism challenge, and it requires me to do a little self-reflection and writing, so I’ll use this space to keep my thoughts together. I’ll probably get too personal and write about things most casual visitors to this site care nothing about. So, you know. Fair warning. Might not be a very interesting post.

(Quick aside; I don’t think that I’ll be able do this inside of an actual 21-day period, but I will certainly make a sincere effort to do so. Minimalism is a lifestyle, so once it becomes habit, it stays.)

Day One (12/11/16) | Make a Damn Decision

I’m 100% onboard. I’ve decided. Decided what? Where does one start in this minimalist crusade? Hmm… well that’s a good question. Minimalism is about making room in your life for things that you truly enjoy and eliminating distractions.

So on the first day of the minimalist challenge, I should make a list of “musts”.

  • I must stop wasting my money.
  • I must maintain a fun and stable career.
  • I must get rid of all the junk in my house.
  • I must eat healthier food.
  • I must exercise at least three times per week.
  • I must make more art.
  • I must write more.
  • I must read more.
  • I must listen to or make music every day.
  • I must watch less TV.
  • I must build loving relationships every day.
  • I must live in the moment.

Day Two (12/12/16) | Getting Rid of all the Crap

I am on my second day of the challenge, but I think it’s going to take a lot longer for me than it took the guys in the link above. The guys that designed the challenge threw a “packing party”, which is basically a party where you get all your friends to pack everything you own into boxes. Then in the next few days you take out of the boxes what you need, and everything else goes away. Donate it, sell it.

Ok, that’s a little extreme, don’t you think? I think so. No packing party for me. I am going to take a more reserved approach and start looking through every drawer and cupboard I have and start throwing things out. It’s gonna take time.

I feel like doing the de-clutter step first is the easiest because it’s physical. You can immediately spot something that’s been on a shelf for years, and go, “Duh, I don’t need this.” *toss*. So far, I have accumulated about 9 paper bags full of things to either give away or sell. I’ve completed my pass through the kitchen and washed and sorted a whole first-year’s of infant clothing, which is now ready to sell. That’s actually a HUGE step for me.

I’ve noticed that minimalism is hard for me when I consider items that have sentimental value. What do I do with them? I never use them, but there they sit, taking up space. They kind of make me happy, I suppose. They’re tokens of trips I’ve taken or major events in my life, and seeing them takes me back to that time. I’m not sure where they fit in with the minimalism challenge, because minimalism takes different forms with each person. Hmm… what to do… keep them for now, I suppose.

Day Three (12/13/16) | Still Sorting…

I went through living room drawers, and moved some things into a different area of the house. We will be recieving a new piece of furniture as a gift for the TV… yeah, well it DOES fit with minimalism for now, because the furniture is much smaller than the current item that is housing the TV and we have to throw a bunch of stuff out to accommodate it. It’s good for us. Really.

Again—the issue of minimalism looking different for everyone. The TV unfortunately will have to stay, as my husband really enjoys playing video games. I can’t just insist we toss it because I suddenly want to watch less TV. It’s just going to have to be something I enforce for myself, I guess.

Day Four (12/14/16) | Brace Yourself—Christmas is Coming

And another thing. As I write this, it is the Christmas season. I have some Christmas decorations that we store in the basement all year. I only grudgingly put them up this year because I basically feel social pressure to have a tree and celebrate the holidays. What kind of nut-job would I be if I didn’t make the holidays a place of nostalgia and love for my young son? Because of this minimalism challenge, there’s a part of me that just wants to throw out every single holiday decoration I own. Hmm… what do with those… keep them for now, I suppose. Maybe just keep the Christmas stuff and toss the rest.

…AND THEN to add more anxiety on a minimalist-at-heart during this season—I not only have to buy nick-nacks for people (basically giving them things they don’t need) but people have to buy nick-nacks for me (thank you for the nick-nack, now I give it a place of honor on my dresser). And kids? Kids get SO many toys for Christmas. Our house is overflowing with toys. Well, those will have to stay I suppose. They really don’t belong to me, you know? Argh. I just hate the over-commercialization of this season. I liked it when I was a little kid—and looked forward to it all year—but I hate it now as an adult because I am the biggest cheapskate you’ve ever met.

In fact, you know what? I would probably like decorating and the whole idea of “Christmas spirit” better if I didn’t have to buy or get gifts. I just wanna hang out, talk, and drink beer with my family and friends. In truth, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the whole year for that very reason.

Day Five (12/15/16) | Stop Putting it Off

My husband’s wedding ring has a crack in it unfortunately. Very sad. I mentioned in an earlier post that it is a puzzle ring, and  unique. However, it’s uniqueness has presented us with some structural challenges. So anyway, he can’t wear it because it hurts his hand, and I’ve been meaning to send it in to the people that made it to repair it. I Finally did it. It’s always a little scary to send off something of value in the mail, but it’s good to have this item on my do-to list checked off.

Next? Consolidating my 401k’s.

Day Six (12/16/16) | Finished the Upstairs

Our second level is basically an attic. We don’t have a lot of stuff up there, but I went and pared down my closet (it’s mostly where we keep all of our off-season things). I managed to throw away like 5 bags of clothes. Made a trip the Goodwill today too, even though I’m not finished. It feels good to have all of that out of the house.

Next steps: going though the dresser that contains my most-frequently worn clothes. That won’t be as fruitful, because I like most of those items. Ugh, I am not looking forward to the basement, but I will power through.

Just for a moment, let me circle back to the guys at the beginning of this post. If you do some research, they have less than 300 items in their home! Seems impossible for me. Whew.. I think I will have to sort through my home and “scrape off” a layer. Once that layer is scraped off, I will do it as many times as necessary to get down to the original layer. The one I really need.

Day Seven (12/17/16) | The Husband Joins In

This minimalism thing must be contagious. My husband has watched me carefully go through all the various drawers and cupboards, tossing out so much stuff. Today, completely on his own volition, sorted through all of his clothes as well, including those collecting dust on the second-level. He threw away nearly 70% of what was there. We have three more big, white garbage bags full of clothes to give away.

I have a few more areas on the main level to do. The basement is haunted with sentimental items and will take me much more time. While it is time-consuming, I think I’d rather do it the slow way, than to pack up everything I own. I need to know that what I’m giving away isn’t something important.

On another note, this process has made me consider some of my everyday routines. Like, for example we have this little bin that we put papers in, some important, some not. And then, when the bin fills up, we have to sort through it, and I hate doing that. What do we even have the bin for? File the important stuff, take action on the other, and throw the rest away!

On the seventh day of the minimalist’s 21-day challenge, he asks us to write down a list of people that will support me in my minimalism. As it turns out, my husband has been a minimalist all along (not in any official capacity, but he is naturally prone to minimalist lifestyle), so that makes him my greatest ally. I won’t drag my friends into this officially, but they know who they are, and I’m sure I’ll tell them about my crusade. They’ll think I’m weird, but they’ll support me.

Day Eight (12/18/16) | Main Level + Second Level Complete!

As of today, I have looked through the entirety of the first and second level of my home. While I probably do have items that I don’t need, I feel a great sense of lightness from knowing that I have no junk. On to the basement. One container at a time.

Looking ahead, I see that this challenge will be complete on December 31st. Isn’t that symbolic? I’ll be starting the New Year off fresh with a newly minted minimalist lifestyle. Hopefully I can complete my run-down of the house by then, at least give the storage areas in the basement a good once-over. As for the big bins full of old sentimental items, photos and memories, that may have to be an on-going project throughout the next year.

Day Nine (12/19/16) | What Does Success Look Like?

Happiness + Constant Improvement + Contribution = Success

Day Ten (12/20/16) | I’m …. “Distracted”?

Minimalism is about doing and keeping what you value. And one thing I value is education. To be specific, music education. To be EVEN MORE specific, harp music education. There’s a music event that I’ve already volunteered my time, money and expertise to, and that is taking precedent over the house-purge project I’ve been on recently. I’ve changed gears; and it’s been a couple of very productive days in thinking, planning and designing the online experience for the event. I’ve actually never done anything like this before, and it has been scary but also very educational.

Day Eleven (12/21/16) | The Husband Joins in Again

Had a nice chat with Husband last night about my music event preparations. He usually doesn’t get involved in my extra-curricular activities, but I realized that he can lend a “managerial” mind-set to this whole operation. You see, I excel at user-experience, design, and marketing, but one thing I am lacking is a broader perspective on the timing of all the plans that need to be made. My husband, however excels at management—it is after all what he does for a living—and he can help build a plan and keep me accountable for deadlines. It’ll be nice to work with him on assembling this event—a learning experience for both of us to grow together! How fun!

Let’s check back in with the 11th day of the minimalists. “Today” they talked about sorting all the unused stuff, and taking out the trash. Sounds like I am still “on schedule!”

Days Twelve through Seventeen (12/22/16 – 12/27/16) |  Holiday Frenzy

Have to lump a bunch of days all together here, but I still have minimalism on the mind.

First, I was at my parents house during this time. This always encourages me to be minimalist because they have SOOO much stuff. Just stuff, everywhere. An entire basement full of stuff! Some of it is very nice, but not all of it. It’s random odds and ends, nick-nacks picked up in souvenier shops, heirlooms from grandparents, etc. I guess it serves as a bit of a cautionary tale because I want to have a serene home free of clutter. Best to be in the habit of it now.

The Christmas haul wasn’t too bad. We were mostly gifted things that we actually needed or wanted. It wasn’t a very big pile of stuff. Thank god for small miracles.

Packed up, headed home. House was a mess when I got home because my minimalism crusade has left it in shambles, but I felt ambitious enough to put away ALL of the Christmas decorations. Feels so good to have that done and over with right away, instead of waiting until the end of February, as is my usual. 😛

Tomorrow we pick up the new TV stand, which–like I said–means we had to do a fairly significant downsize in STUFF in order to accommodate the smaller piece of furniture with less storage space.

I noticed that on day 13, the minimalists got down to the business of selling. I have a few things to sell as well, and I think it’s a smart idea to set some sort of sell-by deadline so that it doesn’t sit around for too long. I think I will set that at June 2017 at the latest. Calendar reminder is set!

The minimalist’s day 14 is digitization, which I still need to do yet, and will when I have made a clean sweep through the basement. It’s quite a time-consuming project, and I will get to it, but it’s simply going to take longer than one day to do, and that’s all there is to it. Like Dave Ramsey says when it comes to the “Debt Snowball”–do the easy stuff first, get some “big wins” to psych yourself up, and then tackle the hard stuff last.

The minimalist’s day 15 covers debt, which Husband and I have a fairly good grasp on. We are generally not big spenders, we have a budget, and we’ve been working to pay off all of our debts. (I also grew up in a household that touted Dave Ramsey as a personal finance guru.) Some people have completed this process much faster than we have, but we’re still focused on it, even though we eat out a lot, and buy a lot of beer and wine 🙂 One thing at a time.

The minimalist’s day 16 covers the TV, which I’ve already spent some time agonizing about earlier. Our house only has one TV right now, which is good. We have one video game system, which is older and doubles as a DVD player. Computers and laptops all need to stay because some of my extra-curricular activities require a more intensive machine for writing code and using Photoshop. I will look into ways to reduce screen time overall, however. I will save that for next month’s follow-up.

The minimalist’s day 17 covers the car. It is simply not an option for us to sell one. Due to two separate events that have happened over the last two years, we have actually had to live with only one car in our household for an extended period of time. It was extremely difficult and inconvenient. However, despite the car difficulties from the last two years, we don’t have any monthly car payment, so that is still within the spirit of minimalism. My car at least, is usually tidy. I routinely go through all the compartments and make sure I only have what I actually need.

Day Eighteen (12/28/16) | TV Stand

Okay, I’ve already mentioned this stupid TV stand like three times in the course of this article, but wow, does this thing ever make a difference! I wish I had a “before” shot, so you could see how much better it looks now. I put a pink outline over how big the previous entertainment center was before, and you can see that it was about a foot further out, and a foot taller, so that it used to block a good portion of both windows. Now we have less stuff, more space, and more light from the windows. Ahhhh…..

Outline in pink shows the rough size of the last entertainment center.
Outline in pink shows the rough size of the last entertainment center.

Yesterday was very productive as we both had the day off to put that entertainment center together, and I made a trip to Goodwill and Target to both get rid of stuff and pick up a bunch of storage containers in order to help organize what we have in our basement.

Once Little One was in bed, I was able to look through the entire laundry room in our basement for junk. Our basement is now about 33% finished. I’ve decided to leave all the bins of papers, photos and artwork for last, so I can get some real progress on the big stuff.

The minimalist’s day 18 covers housing arrangements. We are in the biggest home we can reasonably afford, but it’s actually quite a small house. We have future plans to upsize slightly, because we’d like a more accessible guest room and better floor-plan. This is not likely to be an excessive or extravagant home, just something that fits us better. I actually like having a small home, because when I start to accumulate too much stuff, I can really feel it, and it kicks me off into purge-mode.

Happy New Year! (1/4/16)

The 21st day came and went! I was busy with visiting family and celebrating the new year. Let’s finish following along with my progress and the minimalists’ 21-day challenge.

First, there’s been a new development that will force us to begin a financially minimalist lifestyle right away. Husband has lost his job and we must tighten the belt. That means no more eating out, no more beer and wine, no more impulsive spending, we must watch every dollar while he begins his search for a new job. My hope is that it will help retrain some of our bad habits so that even though he will likely get another job soon, we will stay in the financially tight “groove” afterward as well.

Second, I can say with some amount of certainty that I have finished my going-over of everything in the house (still, with the exception of the bins of photos and papers). I was on the verge of purchasing a somewhat-spendy ($250) scanner so that I could begin the process of digitization, but that plan is put on hold until we are back to two incomes. In total, I’ve organized the house, made four trips to Goodwill, and given away items to family and friends.

Day 19—defining one’s mission, and day 20—health. What are my values & goals? Some of the items on my list are no-brainers, as a lot of people value the same things I do, but I would think that everyone’s list is slightly different. I value (roughly in order of importance, although it is extremely hard to place them):

  1. fairness/truth/honesty
  2. family
  3. attractiveness/fitness/health/tidiness
  4. financial security/freedom/success
  5. education/critical thinking/curiosity/science
  6. music/art
  7. friends
  8. nature/travel/adventure
  9. clarity/balance/serenity
  10. humility

Next, I’d like to explore some of my goals that align with my values. And again, these are roughly in order of importance, but it’s quite difficult to do this also.

  1. Publish one blog post a week. (I’ve been doing this for one year. Keeping up the “good” work!)
  2. Reduce weight to 120 pounds.
  3. Count my calories every day, and take in no more than 1200 calories a day.
  4. Prepare nutritious home-cooked meals three times a week (with leftovers for the other days).
  5. Reduce or completely eliminate alcoholic beverages.
  6. Reduce or completely eliminate fast-food.
  7. Play an instrument at least twice a week.
  8. Read one book per month.
  9. Spend more time outdoors in the summer.
  10. Maintain my lawn & garden twice a week
  11. Listen to one new song a week.
  12. Consolidate my 401ks.
  13. Buy this WordPress domain space.
  14. Zero personal debt.
  15. Teach my son basic life skills.
  16. Go on a date with my husband at least once a quarter.
  17. Buy a nice camera and learn photography.
  18. Practice drawing/sketching at least once a week.
  19. Save money for 6 months of expenses.
  20. Buy a slightly bigger, newer home with better floor-plan.
  21. Visit with a financial adviser to ensure retirement security.
  22. Pay off the house.
  23. Get a tummy tuck.
  24. Visit with a personal trainer.
  25. Visit with a personal stylist.
  26. Become physically stronger with more energy.
  27. Visit with a friend at least once a week.
  28. Go to social events at least twice a month.
  29. Become better at conversing with strangers.
  30. Take lessons for the ukulele.
  31. Learn yoga and make it a semi-daily practice.
  32. Write a kid’s nutrition book. (an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a while)
  33. Travel to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Egypt, mainland Europe and all over the USA (at least one vacation in every state).
  34. Go scuba diving.
  35. Swim with dolphins.
  36. Learn how to code fluently in jQuery.
  37. Make and give away at least one piece of art every quarter.

Finally, day 21—time. It’s interesting that this subject has come up because yesterday when I got home from work I actually felt kind of bored! I’ve been working on reducing distractions and paring down my time commitments, and for the first time in a while I actually felt guilt-free boredom! It’s good that I’ve taken the time today to write out all of my values and goals, because now I have renewed focus on what is really important to me. Now I can set about filling my time with the one thing that is most important to me right now.

My answer is clear—time to lose some weight. (A New years’ resolution to lose weight? Oh, how cliche!)

Next Month’s Follow-Up

I’ve set a calendar reminder to circle back in one month (2/1/2017) to review my progress.

  • Have I kept up with the digitization process?
  • Have I looked into ways to reduce screen time?
  • Have I considered ways to eat more healthy?
  • Have I considered ways to get more exercise?
  • Have I worked on kicking my bad habits?
  • Have I completed the next steps in my financial planning?
  • Is it time for a second purge?

February Follow-Up

Today’s Inspiration, “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”

Okay, to follow up on my minimalism crusade. I have suceeded in some ways, but failed in others.

I’ve been eating more healthy! I’ve spent a total of $8 on fast food in the month of February, and that is an incredibly low amount for me. Of course, a lot of the success here is motivated by the fact that our family is subsisting on one income lately.

I have lost a FEW pounds, but not as many as I’d like. Most of that has to do with the fact that my bad habits haven’t gone away, but I am working on that still.

I do have a scanner now, but it’s one of the flat-bed varieties, so it will take extra time. I hope to begin the process of digitization soon, and work on it in small chunks.

I don’t think it’s time for second purge, because as I look around the house, I feel that many of the items we own are there for a specific reason. I optimize just a little bit here and there.

I haven’t done the next step in my financial planning. I really feel like I need to get a handle on one thing at time before I start getting distracted with too many things.

Screen time: I have been reading more books lately! And playing more music. I found an electric guitar in the dumpster a few weeks ago, so I’ve been having a GREAT time messing around with it!

I’ve hit a bit of a dry spell in terms of writing, but I think that was largely due to the crazy fundraising campaign that I’ve been running for the last month in order to plan a local music event this year. Since my husband had lost his job, I knew I’d have to get other people to fund it., and if I couldn’t find funding, the event would be cancelled. So I ran a month-long campaign, and made the goal! Now that the craziness and excitement has died down there, I can take a more relaxed approach to my leisure time, and hope to have more time to write again.

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