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Minimalism: A 1-Week Update

I’m just a little over a week into my attempts to decrease my stuff and declutter my life and I thought perhaps a progress report is due for anybody who might be inclined to care.
Here were my musts:
I must eat healthier.
I must sleep more.
I must spend my money wiser.
I must declutter my home.
I must write every day.
I must practice self-love and confidence.
I must promote kindness.
I must read every day.
I must exercise 4 times a week.
I must learn yoga.
I must spend quality time with Ana every day that I have her.
I must work towards fostering better relationships with Jer’s kids every time I see them.
I must eat healthier. Yeah, that has not really happened at all this week. Maybe only in the sense that I’ve been broke so unable to purchase a lot of the excesses that I often do, but otherwise? Nope. No progress.
I must sleep more. In a funny twist of life, I have found that I am getting exactly the same amount of sleep and that a lot of what is keeping me up is trying to complete my other musts! An extra hour here cleaning out a cupboard. An extra half an hour there to do my yoga video… I think I need to set a strict bedtime and the rest of my musts be damned. I’m far too tired all of the time and I wind up so frazzled and stressed as I race to be on time in the morning.
I must spend my money wiser. I was flat broke last week so that wasn’t even really an option. This upcoming two weeks will be a much better test of my ability to just say no to unnecessary things.
I must declutter my home. This is where I’m making my progress. The hitch is that things aren’t actually LEAVING my house because I’m saving for a garage sale late next month and for friends to go through my books, but I have about a dozen boxes packed full of stuff at this point. There’s still a long ways to go and I need to start really making some smarter choices – board games, for example, I need to go through and I anticipate that I will have a tough time with giving some of those away, but let’s face it, other than Cards Against Humanity, the other games don’t get played!
I must write every day. I’m doing alright on this one, too. I have blogged most days (though not all). I haven’t touched my book and I haven’t touched my journal either, but I am mindful of them and hopeful to tackle some of those this coming week and over the weekend.
I must practice self-love and confidence.  Oh. This was not a good week at all for this. It has been a very low confidence week and I’ve been really hard on myself. Perhaps I can use my journal to help tackle this and my writing commitment at the same time. I’m going to look up some body positivity writing exercises and start there. I think that my confidence will improve as I reach more of my other goals.
I must promote kindness. No more and no less than usual, I suppose. I’d like to be making a concerted effort to increase my positive output into the universe.
I must read every day. Nailed it. Heh, this one is not actually difficult for me at all these days. The last few years my reading had decreased a lot because of all my other commitments and because of my schooling, but it’s September 11 and I’ve already finished 5 books this month. Keep on keeping on!
I must exercise 4 times a week. If I count my little mini yoga videos, then yes. If I don’t, then no. I went to boot camp once this week and then bailed on one day and it was cancelled another. Two days is easy for me. Three is when I’m doing well. Four will be something to strive for and a challenge as well as I’ll need to do a few of those days with Ana by my side. That said, I want to be a good role model for her and show her that exercise is good and necessary and maybe not entirely all awful. And does a 15-20 minute yoga video count as exercise? It’s not really hardcore at all.
I must learn yoga. I’ve signed up for a free 30-Day Yoga Challenge. I did days 1 & 2 and then I forgot to do day 3, but caught up with it last night so I’ll continue on this path and at the end of the 30 days find a new challenge or video to continue with. I really want to learn this one.
I must spend quality time with Ana every day that I have her. I’ve done mediocre at this one. I really need to set my goddamn phone down more often.
I must work towards fostering better relationships with Jer’s kids every time I see them. I haven’t seen them much in the last week and I don’t know that I made much more of an effort than I usually would. I need to really work on this one. I need to put away my knee-jerk reactions, pick my battles and really focus on figuring out how I can connect with each one of them individually.
I also added a new must and that is: I must relearn the piano. And then I’ve done nothing with it so far. So, work in progress.
One thing that I am really enjoying about this whole process is watching others participate. I have a few friends are keeping me updated with their moves towards minimalism and it’s so fascinating and exciting to watch. It really does feel wonderful to start seeing cupboard space appear again and to see surfaces unclogged that haven’t been unclogged in a long time.
Are you trying to live a more minimal lifestyle? How’s it working out for you?
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Taking Minimal Thoughts Deeper

I went home last night and as I was cooking dinner I was yanking stuff out of my cupboards in the kitchen. I pulled down that punch bowl (which was actually a salad bowl, who knew) and found some unopened fancy salad tongs. Twelve years without opening them? I think they can go. I hauled down a reusable Starbucks cup (I don’t drink coffee, I drink minimal tea and I never go to Starbucks). I got rid of half a dozen kids plates and another half dozen kids bowls. I found some food containers without lids and they got chucked. I went into my bedroom and looked at my bookshelves… and then started hauling books into my living room. I stopped at the 250 book mark and I’m going to let my friends rifle through them and make selections over the next 2 weeks and then I’ll take what’s left to the used bookstore that I frequent. It felt so cleansing. I can actually see part of my bookshelves right now – it’s a miracle! Maybe by the time that I finish with that shelf I’ll be able to put all my books actually neatly in it and not double and triple stacked or in shaky piles on the top.

I. Don’t. Need. Them. All.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am keeping books. I have probably another 500 books still on that shelf that I’m not ready to let go of. And that’s okay. I have my favorites and a few that looked super interesting and I want to read. Now, you may be wondering WHY I had SO MANY books if I didn’t find all of them super interesting or wanted to read them all and that is a good question. I was addicted to buying books. Library had used books for 0.25 each? Sure, I’ll buy a dozen. Grocery store had a box of bargain books ranging from 2.99 to 4.99? Yeah, I’ll take some of those bad boys home. And I also used to work in bookstores in high school and I’d buy like crazy in addition to bringing home advanced reader copies or stripped books. My book collection has been massive. Since I’ve switched mainly to ebooks, my shelves have largely been neglected and I literally have more books than I can, at my current pace, read in my lifetime. So why waste time on books that only look so-so to me? So they’re gone.

All this talk of books has gotten me derailed. I wanted to go DEEPER into this minimalism thing today and chat a bit more about the WHY of my struggles. These are the questions that The Minimalists put forth for Day 2:

What is standing in the way of my musts?
When did I give so much meaning to my possessions?
What is truly important in my life?
Why am I discontented?
Who is the person I want to become?
How will I define my success?
How will my life improve if I own less stuff?

So let’s talk about this.

What is standing in the way of my musts? Well, just my own brain, really. I won’t tackle each and every one of my musts for each question here (though I will on my own) just for the sake of brevity. For eating healthy I have got to figure out what my block is. I know the rules. I know what I should be doing, but I walk past something tasty and bad for me and it’s like a magnet sucks me in. So what am I afraid of? What is it about being healthy that frightens me? My bad eating habits are LITERALLY killing me. I am already seeing effects of too much sugar and too much garbage in my diet. These are effects that are incredibly embarrassing and uncomfortable even and yet, that does not seem to be enough to get me to lay off the cheesecake and the french fries. So what am I afraid of? I think this is something that I’m going to need to explore a lot deeper in some more personal writing because I honestly at this moment cannot tell you WHY this is SO HARD for me. And again, I’ll look at answering this question off the blog for each and every one of my musts.

When did I give so much meaning to my possessions?  I’m not sure when exactly it was, but I can tell you that a lot of the meaning behind my possessions is the guilt over the money that I’ve spent. Take my books again, for example. Say I spent just $3 on each book (some were less, a lot were more). At the 250 books that I just set aside to vacate my house, that’s $750. Wow. That’s a lot of money that I’m, ultimately, just giving away. Now add onto that the possessions that I have that cost way more than $3… there’s a lot of money about to be leaving my home that has done me zero good. That means that I have a hard time letting go of it because… I wanted it SO bad and I spent SO much money on it… how can I just… give it away? Or sell it for 1/3 of what it cost me originally?

What is truly important in my life? My daughter, first and foremost. My friends and family. Contentment. Happiness. Funny how I haven’t mentioned a single possession yet…  Knowledge and always learning.

Why am I discontented? I feel like I’ve let myself down in life. I don’t hold myself in high regard, that’s for damn sure. Even just looking through these archives, I see post after post where I swear I’m going to change. And I don’t. I just don’t. I’m tired of hearing myself talk talk talk and not seeing any real change and I can only imagine what the other people in my life see and how sick they are of the same. Talk talk talk. No change. I want to be proud of myself. I want to be able to say to myself, “Hey self. Guess what? You totally did that thing that you set out to accomplish.” I don’t feel that pride at all. I feel a lot of loathing about my poor choices – financially, socially, health-related…

Who is the person I want to become? I want confidence back. I want to know that I’m doing the right things and that I’m on the right path. I want to be a healthy, confident, not debt-riddled adult. And I also want to stop giving a shit about what other people think of me.

How will I define my success? Well, some things are simple-  I’ll be debt-free or a lot closer to it. I’ll look and feel healthier. I’ll not feel like a stress case after a weekend with 4 children. I can make it through an entire hour long yoga video or class and feel comfortable with the movements. I think I’ll know that I’ve been successful when my overall outlook is positive.

How will my life improve if I own less stuff? Well, for starts I won’t feel like a crazy hoarder person when I’m inside of my own home. I won’t have this pervasive feeling of being buried. Less stuff will also mean less cleaning and less cleaning is ALWAYS an improvement.

I clearly have more self-evaluation to do and a lot will be done tonight at home in private when I can go over my entire must list (which I read out loud to myself last night several times and will do again today). I’m really excited to start seeing changes in my home and, ultimately, in my life.

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Minimalism, Should vs Must, and How That All Relates to Me

During the month of September 2014, I played The Minimalist Game. The link gives all the deets, but it’s pretty simple – on day one of the month, you get rid of one thing. On day two, you make two more things leave your home, day three is three things and so on and so forth. I made it almost all of the way through the month and it felt AMAZING. I got rid of clothes and toys and kitchen gear… my bathroom was so full of extra beauty products and things that I NEVER used – they all got tossed.

Now, a year later, here I am looking around and feeling stifled- feeling like I’m smothering under a mountain of stuff that is far too much for my tiny little home. I have furniture shoved into every corner. I have stuff Tetrised (do you like how i just turned Tetris into a verb?) into every nook and cranny of every piece of furniture. The tops of my cupboards have stuff. There’s stuff under my bed and under my couches. Tops of armoires- covered. Dressers – covered. There’s SHIT EVERYWHERE. And I’m tired of it. I walk into my house and I don’t feel happy. I feel stressed. I feel like the STUFF is taking over. Truthfully, the stuff IS taking over. Hell, half the time I have to clear a pile of stuff off of my couch just to sit down.

It’s too much and it needs to stop.

I don’t know that I’m going to do exactly the game this time around, but I am going to be making some changes. I have an elliptical machine that I worked really hard to find and, like everybody else who buys fitness equipment, swore up and down that I would use it ALL the time. I’ve used it maybe a dozen times in the year that I’ve had it. It’s not that I don’t exercise, it’s just that I go to boot camp and I run (not as much as I used to) and I don’t need my elliptical for that. So that got listed on Craigslist last night and that will be one LARGE item out of my house.

As I sit here, I can think of a dozen other LARGE-ISH things that I can get rid of. My food processor that I use maybe once a year. The punch bowl that I got as a wedding gift that’s still in its box; uhm, I got married in 2003 and DIVORCED in 2012, WHY do I still have this? The Nike Fuel Band that SO motivated me… for about 6 months until I got tired of wearing it and now it sits in a drawer. I have my eReader that was an amazing gift to me and I have used it A TON… until I got the same app on my phone and on my tablet and I don’t know that I need a 3rd device to carry around anymore (but deary me, thank goodness for the introduction to ebooks because that’s been a huge space saver in my life, bringing my book collection from about 2,000 books to about half of that, with many more anticipated to be purged over the next month).

You catch my drift? I have STUFF.

But, as has been discussed on my brief Facebook post about the Mins Game, minimalism isn’t just about physical stuff. It’s about getting rid of all sorts of clutter in your life – people who are toxic, food that drags you down and bloats you up, habits that tie up your life in inefficiency and distraction.

I’ve spent some time now going through The Minimalists website and this post, Our 21-Day Journey Into Minimalism, was recommended to me to read first. You guys, I would be lying if I said I didn’t get weepy.

The part that rang most true from me was Day 1, Decision Making. They talk about how we (as in most people) always say, “I should do…” and then we never do it. We use it as an excuse to save things for tomorrow or the next day or never. I have been saying for a decade that I should eat healthier and while I make small improvements, I inevitably then fall back to my old unhealthy standbys. I should start learning yoga (and not just follow yoga accounts on Instagram). I should write a book, blog more, journal more frequently – write in general. I should read more. I should, I should, I should. And as they say on their site, you wind up shoulding all over yourself. Pun intended.

So I have made a list of “I Musts.” I’m going to study it and rewrite it and reread it and say it loud and post it all over my house.

Here’s the list:

I must eat healthier.
I must sleep more.
I must spend my money wiser.
I must declutter my home.
I must write every day.
I must practice self-love and confidence.
I must promote kindness.
I must read every day.
I must exercise 4 times a week.
I must learn yoga.
I must spend quality time with Ana every day that I have her.
I must work towards fostering better relationships with Jer’s kids every time I see them.

Tomorrow I will work on examining more closely the obstacles in my way and I will answer some tough questions about why I haven’t made these changes already. There’s got to be something out there that will convince me to change my ways and maybe going through this process of self-examination and questioning will help me get there. Maybe repeating my list of I Must each morning will focus me and push my mind in the right direction.

As you can see, one of my musts is writing daily. I am hopeful that this will include much more frequent blog posts in addition to keeping my personal journal more up to date and maybe even making some progress in the books that currently only live in my brain.

I’m looking forward to getting started and am so hopeful that maybe, just maybe, this time something will stick and I can become somebody that I am proud of.