Five Ways To Be Unstoppable

Last week I got a text from a friend which read:

“I wanted to tell you that I’m proud of you. I know it may sound cheesy but I believe you are doing a great job with [your son] and took a brave step in choosing to use better coping skills. 🙂 Love ya!”

Normally I’d think this friend was just being mushy (she’s that kind of friend), but in light of our conversations I know she was giving me permission. Permission for what?, you might wonder. Permission to be brave. Choosing better coping skills, raising my son in ways some don’t agree, and working a job that allows me to place work and life in alignment is not always easy to explain. Even those closest to me don’t understand why I do what I do the way I do it.

Lately my mind has been wondering off to past conversations, piecing little bits of insight together as if they were a puzzle. And, as with all puzzles – at least, in MY puzzle boxes – when I finally get to the end…there is always one piece missing. A while ago I wrote about how a friend asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Normally this question centers on ones job or a field of choice. Since I was already doing what I wanted to do with my career, I was a bit confused and even a little irritated by the question.

When I finally dug that question out of the back of my brain last week, I thought about it in a difference context. What do I want to be when I grow up? In other words: How would I want people to remember me when I’m six feet under the ground.

I want to be remembered as being someone who was brave. I want to be unstoppable. I want to be remembered as the kind of person who changed lives because I refused to throw my hands in the air and go along with the crowd. If you, too, want this for your life, I’ve got five tips to get started. They aren’t always going to be fun to employ. But, as I tell my step-daughter all the time: “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

1) Forget what others think. I know this is easier said than done. But if you are going to be the captain of your ship then you need to realize that both the captain of the Titanic and the Santa Maria were brave. The outcomes were completely different between the two, obviously, and well…you have to prepare that this may be the case for you, as well. Which leads to my next point.

2) Don’t be afraid to fail. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Many people in our history learned numerous times how not to do something – they never considered themselves a failure (think Thomas Edison and the lightbulb.) I have started three businesses in my life. One was a huge success and the other two paid the bills…barely. I never considered myself a failure with the latter two. I simply learned better ways to do it next time I’m brave enough to jump into another business venture.

3) Buck the system. Many of my favorite and most admired mentors live without television, cars, and many homeschool or unschool their children. I used to think these souls were just weird. Now I think “They have so much that I want”. I’m making changes each day to get to where they’ve led me. The thing is, if I go down this route, then I (most likely) will be someone another thinks is just weird. And, I don’t really care. That’s how I know I’m braver than I used to be. (I could digress into a story of an inner conflict over buying a pair of nude shoes because I was worried about how others would perceive me and my older shoes. Turns out, I didn’t buy the shoes. Turns out, I don’t really care what other think. This, friends, is progress.)

10-31-2013 9-25-07 AM

4) Always (always) trust your gut. Many don’t know how to do this. Many are afraid of their own higher self’s direction. Many ignore the signs and many live lesser lives because of it. In order to trust your gut, you must be willing to stop listening to those you love sometimes and start getting quiet enough to hear your own inner voice. This isn’t easy. In fact, I find in a world where people are full of opinions and ‘best intentions’ this is really one of the hardest steps of all.

5) Be willing to lose (or give up) everything to start over. I remember in 2004 my (then) husband prayed for change. He felt strongly that something drastic needed to happen in order for him to be happy. Within 24 months he lost his job, his home and later, his marriage to me. And yes, if you met him today, I’d say he is the happiest he has ever been with a less stressful job, a smaller home in the snow-country of New England, a new wife and two beautiful children. Sometimes you have to lose big in order to really win.

Leo Babauta calls this ‘burning the farm‘. I don’t necessarily believe that my fifth recommendation is always necessary in the journey of being unstoppable. I do, however, believe that the Universe always finds ways to auto-correct itself and if steps 1-4 aren’t enough to get you on a road of bravery, then recommendation number five might not be a choice. I find that being proactive keeps me from usually having to have fate step in and wreak havoc with life in order to strap me with a life lesson without my consent.

Are you willing to be weird? How about brave? What are you doing to make sure you get the life you were destined to have?

Five Ways To Simplify Birthdays

My little Punkin turned one last month and I have a confession: I almost had a nervous breakdown over the entire party thing. There I was: standing in Party City trying to determine whether I should go with the Elmo or the Toy Story theme. Then again, we have a lot of stuffed ‘jungle’ animals so maybe a safari or jungle theme with a lot of monkeys would be better. Seriously. I almost cried in Party City. I was so stressed out and upset over having to choose that I left without purchasing anything that day for fear I’d go with the wrong theme and my little guy’s party would suck.

Thankfully I was scheduled to have lunch with a friend and she reminded me of a few major points to get me back in the groove. She said:

  • He doesn’t know who Elmo, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and any other Disney/Pixtar character is so why does it matter? A monkey, a tiger and a lion are the same to him at this point of his life.
  • You are a 40+ mom, so there won’t be any kids there…only old people who want to see the kid with cake all over his face.
  • You say you are a minimalist. (“Well, sorta”, I admitted). Why are you buying into the lie that this has to be a smaller version of the traveling circus to be a successful party? Keep it simple. Keep it about the kid, not the party.

And she was absolutely right. I realized I was trying to impress the adults at the party with my super-mom skills and those people don’t need me to impress them. They already know I do my best as his mom. No fancy cake needed to prove that. So, as always, I asked myself “How did I get here? I thrive on simplicity. What happened between my house and Party City that day?”

Turns out, this was easy to answer. Pinterest happened. A nightly search of “1 year old birthday ideas” on Pinterest. Not. A. Good. Idea. Don’t misunderstand, I love Pinterest. It is my favorite time-suck activity, but, admittedly Pinterest really does feed my desire to buy things I don’t need and compare myself to those who have (want???) more than I. In truth, when giving things up in my “Year Without”, Pinterest should be top of the list.

My friend, and fellow blogger, Kelly wrote a great blog about how to keep birthdays simple. I’m ‘stealing’ a few of her points, but also adding my own. Hence the title of this week’s post. Here are my five tips for making birthday’s simple.

1. Stay out of the Party Stores. Seriously, a lot can be accomplished with a few white dishes or even white paper plates. I made some decorations from construction paper and a 99 cent bag of blow-up balloons. I think I spent a total of $8 at the Dollar Store. This post has some great ways to decorate from recycled (aka: already on hand) things. It’s a Cheerio-themed party. No home with a one year old is without Cheerios, right? (Kelly’s first point in her blog says “Stay off Pinterest”. Ha. Silly, silly Kelly.)

2. Keep the cake simple. Kelly suggests picking up a cake from the grocery store bakery or baking some cupcakes at home. I totally agree. I did make my Punkin’s cake(s) this year but that’s because I have a neighbor who owned a bakery so she loaned me her cake decorating stuff. My mom used to be a cake decorator so I have a slight level of skill in the decorating field. And finally, I just wanted to for the sake of doing something fun and creative. I made two, actually. One for him and one for the guests. Admittedly, my pal Betty Crocker made it a bit easier. So, case in point: Cake from a box is okay.

3. Only invite people who really matter. Our small little house was brimming with people. Important people. People we love. Only three of our guests were under the age of 9 because most of my friends are drawing social security or (and??) have kids in college.

4.
Don’t celebrate with a ‘party’ every year. I made this a big deal because it was his first birthday and he shares the day with his 71-year old Grandpa who was also at the party. I wanted it to be memorable for several reasons. Next year, I’m thinking Hy-Vee cupcakes, pizza and Phelps Grove Park. End of story.

5. Skip the party favors. Ugh. I hate spending money on silly stuff that people will just throw away. If you must do party favors, follow this rule: If you can’t eat it or wear it, you don’t need it. I’m of the ‘eat it’ mindset so I sent people home with extra cake. As Kelly stated, “Nobody needs a bag full of trinkets and candy sent home with their kid and you can save yourself a little bit of time, money, and stress. The fun time with friends is reward enough for attending.”

20130908_15213220130908_152207Smash Cake!

5 Ways To Have the Life You Want

So, second week in a row I’ve posted about 5 ways to (fill in the blank). If you are not adept at spying trends, this is yet another new direction for my blog. The Friday Five Series. I’m seeking out guest bloggers, too, so I’m excited to share with you some of the things they’ve conjured up in the weeks to come. Also, if you haven’t checked out the other series (Wordless Wednesdays) take a little peek.

This week’s post has five great ideas to live a more simple life, but each centers on one solid theme: Permission.

If you, like me, grew up in the public school system then you are well-trained at asking for permission. Want to go to the bathroom? Gotta ask for permission. They require us to read “A Brave New World” to help us to understand how easily we can fall prey to worldly influences, but remind us daily by making us raise our hands to speak or gather hall passes to leave the room that they don’t want us to be brave at all. And, the world is just fine, thanks. No new world needed.

The business culture isn’t much better. Employers say they want free-thinkers and want people to act like grown-ups, but God forbid you do something based on your gut reaction sans permission. No, no. That just will not do! You didn’t get permission in the form of a NCR carbon-copy document signed by four people with pay grades higher than yours. (And that still has to be run through legal and HR to make sure no one gets sued) And all because you wanted to change from Times New Roman to Arial. (End rant here.)

After much thought this week, I’ve determined that if I want to enjoy the life I’ve always wanted…to enjoy the life I was created to live…then I need to simply relax. The easiest way to do that is to give myself permission. How about you? Can you give yourself permission to do these five things?

Fail. So many people never go out for the volleyball team, move to Hawaii for a new job, start a new business, or simply learn a new skill because they are so afraid of failing. If you ‘fail’ at something it is a sure indicator that you at least tried.  Failing versus not even trying? That’s a no brainer. Do you know how much I suck at knitting? I’m BAD. I don’t care. Stop stressing about how poorly you’ll do and how miserably you’ll fail. Just get off your patootie and go for it.

Quit. I’ve started and stopped a 12-Week Couch to 5K program many times. The upside is, I’ve gotten about 30 weeks of running in during my lifetime because I usually quit about mid-way into Week 5. Quitting doesn’t mean you are weak. It doesn’t mean you haven’t been successful. I’ve successfully run for 5 weeks in a row…six times. That’s big! Some people never know when to quit and they end up in dead-end jobs until they retire or living with spouses who treat the family dog better. Children do this (quitting) instinctively…until we teach them that ‘quitting is for quitters’. Each time I’ve given myself permission to quit…I’ve made room for something better to come into my life and been happier for it.

Be different. I’ve never been a trend-setter or someone who likes to do something because everyone else does it. I kinda dig doing things (or being) a tad bit ‘different’. Last week I cancelled my personal cell phone…and got a landline phone again. Who does that? (Apparently no one considering the hell of a deal I got on my landline). I thought it might be cool to actually engage in activities with my child at the park instead of sitting on a bench, eyes glued to my iPhone, while my son learns to walk without my knowledge.

Be honest. “How are you?” “Fine.” Right. When people hurt you, tell them in a mature, honest manner – one that fosters building stronger relationships. Sweeping your feelings under the rug is a little like lying. You are betraying yourself if you don’t give yourself permission to be honest and you are discounting your true emotions. This leads to drinking alone, loss of sleep, and if you are like me…blog posts you have to delete.

Eat bad stuff. All this crap on Pinterest about Paleo, No Carb, Raw Food, No Sugar makes me want a sundae. A big sundae. Not everyday…but I will eat that huge Pumpkin Pie sundae tomorrow for sure. Am I suggesting you eat like this every time you sit down to a meal? No. (Unless you want to. Then do that.) In others words, being naughty is nice – in moderation.

Some other things I give myself (a mother of a small child, past president of Future Homemakers of America…born again Christian, etc. etc.) permission to do include:

  • Ordering take out when company arrives
  • Eating off paper plates during the week
  • Letting my son cry a little once I put him to bed
  • Hiring a babysitter so I can just go sit at the nature center on a bench alone
  • Getting my tarot cards read and my astrology chart done

I do these things because I’m secure in who I am and can appreciate the irony in it. Besides, when I find myself getting wiggy I can usually trace the origin of my craziness back to a time when I forgot to give myself permission to just be myself.

If you have some time this week, check out Ben Holt’s podcast/interview on giving yourself permission. I really enjoyed it and gave myself permission to listen to it as I was reformatting documents from Times New Roman fonts into Arial and eating a DQ S’Mores Blizzard for lunch.

How about you? How will you give yourself permission this week?

Another Matter of the Heart

There’s a story I don’t share much. I allude to its content from time to time, but I don’t really go into detail. I don’t go into detail for several reasons such as:

1) Its content is not something by which I want to be defined.

2) After all this time, I try to tell a new story.

3) If I don’t discuss it, it won’t hurt as much.

However, I realize after eight years the subject does define me, to a point. It allows me to not only tell a new story, but to change my entire value system. And, while time does heal pain, the void is never really filled so it doesn’t really matter if I talk about it or not.

Tomorrow marks the eighth year I have lived without my only sibling. A young man with a seven-month old son left the world at the age of 27, suddenly without much warning. The one person I was to tease throughout my entire life. The one with whom I was to discuss matters regarding our parents’ health. The one I would leave my child to if something terrible happened to me first. In just one day I went from being someone’s sister to being an only child. It crippled me emotionally for nearly half a decade.

The details of the ‘old’ story and how this happened are not really necessary here. What does matter, however, is how life’s events are meant to teach us valuable life-altering lessons.

Lessons like…

1) Relationships and family are more important than work.

2) Saving for a rainy day is important.

3) When someone is in need, time is of the essence.

You see, I didn’t get on a plane from Connecticut to Missouri fast enough. I didn’t do it because I was really busy with work…I didn’t have a dime in my savings account…I thought it was a simple stomach ache and that was not important enough for me to fly clear across the country. Between the time I got the “You need to come home” call and the time I actually arrived, my brother had slipped into a place from where he would never come back. I never got to say goodbye. And that haunted me for many, many years.

It also changed me. It changed me in so many ways that I wish I could go back to those people who angered me with their “There is a gift in this tragedy” statement. I would say to them “You were right”. Because, folks, why else must we endure such pain if not for growth?

So, how did this change me? How did I grow?

Nobody’s work is more important than family. I live by this in my job now and promote this value to those I supervise and with whom I work. I also remind my superiors from time to time that family is a priority for me. I’ve quit ‘dream jobs’ to be with my family. It isn’t hard to make decisions when you live your values.

Buying useless crap takes valuable resources away from you. When I lived in New England, I lived in a house I really could not afford and bought items for this house I really, really, really could not afford. So, when I got the call my first thought was “Where the hell am I going to get $900 to fly to Missouri?“. Eight years later, I can tell you with all truth and honesty: I think of that moment whenever I am about to buy something major that would deplete my savings account. It has stopped me many times from buying something I do not need.

Don’t ignore your intuition. When a friend is in need, today is the day to pick up the phone. Today is the day to stop what you are doing and write that note. Not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not ‘not ever’. I knew something was wrong on that Friday. I should have called home that day. Instead, I waited nearly 36 hours for my father to call me…and another 12 hours to arrive at the hospital. I think Facebook is a wonderful place to get information. It is not a wonderful place to show someone how much you care.

What does this have to do with simplicity?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Except that this event, along with a few others, led me to my decision to stop working so much, quit buying so much, and take the time to sit on a blanket in the yard watching a storm roll in last night with my son instead of washing dishes.

Every one of my ‘simplicity’ heroes has a similar story. An ‘Ah-Ha’ moment, if you will. What’s your old story and how did it help create a new story? Are you a ‘simplicity-minded’ soul and if so, how did you arrive here? Are you in the midst of your own painful life event that has given you pause? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy weekend!

PS…I’m giving my dear friend and editor time off to deal with her own set of priorities and family issues. If the blog is a complete grammatical mess – I take full responsibility.

My Love/Hate Relationship with my Kitchen Ends

So, I’m wrapping up the series I started at the beginning of April.

I covered the clutter-busting tips and my friend, Grace, helped me determine which appliances to keep. But, what about the big thing…the one thing I said I was going to STOP DOING and START DOING.

I said I was going to stop cooking and go raw, didn’t I? Well, I did it. Kinda. And it made my life a bit more simple. Here’s what I did:

1) I outsourced dinner. This isn’t a blog about ‘saving money’. If it were, then I definitely be a big failure in this area. But, this is one way I made my life more simple. While I managed to find healthy things for dinner most nights for myself, I ‘outsourced’ dinner for my husband to any restaurant of his choosing. Sometimes he ate sandwiches or leftovers at home. Sometimes he went the carry-out pizza route. The bottom line: I vowed to stop stressing over dinner. Mission accomplished.

2) I did go raw. About 75%, anyway. I consumed tons of veggies, salads, handy fruits and nuts. The lovely Grace gave us a nice little list of quick no-cook food choices, which I share at the end. If you want more of Grace’s help, then schedule a one-on-one with her. She’s a cutie.

This is yummy!!

This is yummy!!

Photocredit for Healthy Chickpea Salad

Warm Coconut Millet Porridge - YUMMMMM!!

Warm Coconut Millet Porridge – YUMMMMM!!

Photocredit for Warm Coconut Millet Porridge

3) Cooking was minimal. I once thought sweet potatoes were a PITA, but honestly, that’s because I had never cooked a sweet potato in my life. And if that wasn’t bad enough…Grace giggled when I asked “And just how does one cook brown rice?” (In the oven, silly!!) My food choices were made simple with her help: Hard boiled eggs, brown rice, baked sweet potatoes…and lots and lots of soup.

And how do I feel? Fan-Freaking-Tastic! Now, I can focus on a few tasks a ‘dinner’ time, like cuddling with the Little Guy, folding laundry beside him while he plays, and making his dinner while I make my own. (Yep, makin’ baby food. How domestic of me, right??)

I lost 4 pounds in April – a pound a week, which is healthy – and I never counted a single calorie. I drank wine, ate some ice cream (okkkay…..A LOT of ice cream. Whatever. Gosh!) and enjoyed my popcorn with real butter. I switched to whole milk which cut down on buying SKIM MILK for breakfast and HALF & HALF for my coffee. Beside, whole milk is really good for you despite what Weight Watchers tries to tell you.  The point is, when I stopped focusing on extensive meal planning and storing massive amounts of food for the apocalypse, it all seemed to work out better for me.

I’ll get back to the heart of simplicity and my journey next month. But this month was a fun experiment and I think it’s something I will continue as my path to simplicity.

The Beautiful Miss Grace

The Beautiful Miss Grace

Grace’s Simple NO COOK Meals:

Yogurt with nuts, dried cranberries, and honey.
Apples with Almond Butter
Tortilla with any nut butter and raisins
Salad topped with Garbanzo beans, nuts, & dried cranberries
A sandwich on Sprouted Bread
Any Grain* + Beans + Veggie combo

*Oven baked brown rice: 2 1/3 c. of water and 1 1/2 c. of brown rice, 1 TB EVOO, 1 tsp. salt. Bake in a 8X8 baking dish, foil covered for 1 1/4 hours at 375*.  Portion this out and freeze for later.

And those sweet potatoes? Bake them. Easy breezy!!!!!

My Colossal Cave of Clutter

My kitchen has been on my nerves for quite some time. Mostly because it is never HGTV ready. But…I took a step back and put things into perspective. So, let me just begin today by saying “I have a baby”.  Babies bring an entirely new set of clutter with them that I never imagined.

A baby swing sits where my breakfast nook table was stationed.

One side of my cupboard contains baby stuff like baby food, bottles, miniature spoons and some things I probably don’t need but keep anyway like empty baby formula containers (Because I’m a container-addict, that’s why! Don’t judge me.)

formulababyfood

But, at the current moment, I need these things. Kitchen items I need for the Little Guy include an immersion blender, a food chopper, a juicer, a blender and ice cube trays. I need these things for making food and mixing formula. Once the Little Guy can eat normal people food, some of these items will be traded, sold, or donated. And really, I’m okay with ‘baby clutter’. One can outgrow ‘baby clutter’.

It’s adult clutter that drives me crazy. I own five skillets, three sauce pans, and two stock pots. I have eight spatulas. I know. *Sigh* I am a Minimalism Retard. I preach “Get rid of stuff!” so often you may view me as a hypocrite. And I’m fine with that. Because, folks, these things make my life simpler which is the goal. But, as promised

I set off to declutter the kitchen and honestly, I only found three things I’m willing to part with at the current moment.  If you want an apple slicer (just how lazy am I????), a garlic press (Duh…grocery stores sell jars of minced garlic) and wine bottle opener (Ummmm….okay, yes. I can part with this. I have two more) just let me know.

But, alas…I did check in with the lovely Grace at The Nude Foodie and asked her “What utensils and what small appliances can you not live without?” And here are her answers:

Grace’s Top 5 Small Appliance list

A food processor (YAY!)
A good, high quality blender (YAY!)
Toaster Oven
Crockpot/slow cooker
and her fifth one…

Evaluate your life. Some people ‘need’ a microwave. Others think they are evil. You may feel like you need a juicer. Or a rice cooker. Whatever.” she said.  I agree. I’m coming to grips with the fact that the griddle is just collecting dust, more than two skillets is overkill, and unless I can use this waffle iron to make brownies or cinnamon rolls once in a while, it may find its way to the thrift store. The point is to not hold on to things you never use and I think we can all agree that nobody needs an apple slicer. (Or…maybe…never mind.) Grace lives with four children and doesn’t own a coffee pot or a microwave. I don’t know how she does this, and I don’t care. I stand in awe of her.

Grace’s Top 5 Utensil List

One good, long and sharp, chef’s knife
A wire strainer
One high quality skillet
A stock pot and a sauce pan*
A zester/microplane

*Ummm…nice try, Grace. That’s technically two.

Grace says to look for things that can serve more than one function. For example, a wire strainer can also function as a steamer or colander. A good knife opens packages, cuts veggies, slices meat, and crushes garlic. (Of course you would wash it in between functions, silly non-cooking girl.) And a note on knives: “Think long and sharp. A short dull knife is useless.”, says Grace.

So this week, I’m totally rethinking my juicer. I love the health-induced idea of juicing. It’s the PITA juicer clean up that gets me every time! I functioned just fine for three days without my coffee pot, using only a french press. I also drank less coffee because it took a bit more effort.  I’m starting to think I’m lazy.

What can you part with this week? What do you think of Grace’s lists and what is on your Top 5 list?

Spice Up Your Kitchen by Simplifying

Last week I wrote about waste and my decisions to make my life a bit simpler here in our Sho-Me state home. So far things have been a tad bit interesting, and even a bit emotional, to say the least.

As promised, I met with Grace to come up with a few little lists which I will share with you today and throughout the month. But first, let’s get to the heart of it.

My decision to stop cooking has resulted in the following:

1) I gained five hours of my life back each week. I feel less stress and find I have time to keep up with other things. This is good.

2) I feel an enormous amount of guilt. Each night I watch the Hubster forage through the kitchen at 6 pm only to watch him pop a frozen Country Fried Steak in the microwave. Said Country Fried Steak is then smothered under a blanket of mustard. Is this emotional and social programming? I mean, what kind of wife am I to let my best friend starve to death? Or…do I really believe he will die from the overconsumption of processed foods? Probably a little of both.

3) I’ve lost weight. Salads and whole foods will do that to a person. In fact, rumor has it that if you eat ‘real food’ you don’t really need to count calories anymore. The body is an amazing vehicle that seems to understand exactly what you need, if only it is provided with the proper fuel in the first place.

So far my decision to stop cooking has been both good and bad. I mean, I still cook. I made brown rice and I baked a sweet potato. I’m not a full-on hippie, for Pete’s sake. Even made myself a bowl of cookie dough…of course…I tried to consume the entire bowl before I baked the cookies, but frankly, that’s beside the point.

Anyway. On to Grace’s list to help me clear the clutter from my kitchen!  I asked The Nude Foodie herself if she could only have TEN SPICES in her cupboard, which would she choose? Here are her answers:

(There are other opinions, like this one, but ultimately it’s your kitchen.)

We argued about nutmeg. I love nutmeg. She says “Eh, it’s not really necessary.”  Meh. Silly, Grace. Whateverrr. As you can see, I have lots of work to do in the clutter-clearing arena this week, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by my results. Stay tuned.

Some are a bit dusty on top. Proof I don't cook.

Some are a bit dusty on top. Proof I don’t cook.

Wrapping Up March With Weekend Reads

I finish a few blogs for April and I’m ready to get started on the room of the house that is one colossal cave of clutter. (Okay, maybe I exaggerate…but definitely a room that bugs me.) As we launch the weekend and prepare for some new awesome advice from the Sho-Me State Girl herself…here are some fantastic reads:

All the weekend reads are inspired by my boss who announced that she’s quitting and moving to Hawaii.  (Hang on there…let’s not throw a party just yet. I actually like her). But here’s the kicker…it’s kinda my fault she’s moving. Yep. She read my blog and decided to take the plunge. I could not be more proud. (Of her..and of myself!)

So…get that cup of tea/coffee/glass of wine because these are some cool and brave souls:

Read about the Jordan’s who live in Siloam Springs, AR. I am thrilled I ran across this story because Siloam Springs is just a hop, skip and a jump from me. I want to load up the kiddo and go meet them. Maybe I will – I have all this free time since I don’t have to cook anymore. (That, my friends, is called foreshadowing. You will just have to wait!)

Could you live in a house the size of your garage? Well, Jon and Ryah Dietzen are doing it. And it seems to be working out just fine. This is the coolest garage I’ve ever seen. (I actually lived in a 250 square foot cottage when I separated from husband number one and it was really, really cool. I had everything I needed – including some peace.)

So garage living isn’t your style? Okay. How about a bus? Yep. You read that right. A bus. In fact, my grandparents sold their home when I was a little girl and bought a fifth wheel trailer. They lived in Missouri 1/2 the year and Texas the other half. I don’t really even remember their old house. I just remember cool trips to the lake to visit.

Starting to think that ‘minimalism’ and ‘downsizing’ is just for those of us who bought into the American-Dream Myth and are up to our eyeballs in debt? Not so much. Here are some people you just might be surprised by:

The creator of Tumblr. Yep. The Billionaire extraordinaire: David Karp

Joe Greenstein, co-founder of Fixster is cashing in his billionaires to help the poor. Okay, maybe not all of his billions, but he certainly isn’t spending it on fancy cars and lavish homes.

Aaron Patzer, the founder of Mint.com, who sold his company in 2009 for $170 million. He lives in a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment, and recently replaced his 1996 Ford Contour (with 150,000 miles) with a $29K Subaru Outback.

And the two founders of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz and that other guy embrace minimalism, too. Moskovitz could afford any home he wanted but lives in condo. He bikes to work and leaves his Volkswagen hatchback in the garage. The other guy’s Facebook profile says his interests include “minimalism” and “eliminating desire.”

So with all that, I have to admit…one thing that perturbs me about the ‘simplicity culture’ is that it is centered around reducing a carbon footprint, canceling out debt, or counting items so one can brag about the fact that one only owns 99 things versus ‘the other minimalist’ who owns 100. I haven’t decided if it is a ‘fad or a movement’. I own over 1000 items. I do not recycle. I do not grow my food. I do not have anything that is ‘solar panelled’. I am not interested in going off grid (Okay…I’m a tiny bit interested in going off grid but that’s because I have a tab bit of rebellion and anti-socialism in me and certainly not for environmental reasons….). I don’t want a house that is 120 square feet and moveable. (My SECOND home in Monterey Bay – maybe.) I love those people. They inspire me. But, alas, I am not one of them.

Who am I? I am a 41 year old woman who wants to spend my time pushing my son on a swing in the park instead of vacuuming my house and neatly storing my hobby supplies. I want to giggle on the sofa with my husband instead of worrying about the three rooms we never use that still need organization. I want to spend time with my family when they visit instead of worrying about the fact that I only have eight plates that match and the matching coffee mugs were gone A LONG TIME AGO. I want simplicity. I want peace. I want freedom and joy. And…I want that for you, too. If that means you realize you need to quit your job and move to Hawaii…then sweet! Just let me know I was responsible for that decision! (wink, wink). Then I will know I did what I set out to do. And that makes my heart sing.

Looking forward to April. Tell me all about those closets and the March challenge. Get ready to clean that kitchen.

Announcing the April Challenge:

Find two small appliances you think you can live without. like your microwave or (GASP!) a coffee maker. Take them to your storage closet. Don’t use them for ONE MONTH. Use only one favorite knife this month. And lastly…vow to not cook for at least ONE NIGHT each week. Outsource it or eat something simple and easy. Can’t wait to hear!

Wrapping up the March Challenge:

I actually found several items with which I could still part and not feel bad. I’m headed to the consignment store…and then to the thrift store. So thrilled! What about you? How did it go?

Do You Need More Storage or Less Stuff?

Denise’s Notes: This week’s post is reblogged from Unclutterer. Deb Lee originally posted this on Tuesday and I know it will certainly resonate with some of you in light of what I’ve been writing about for the last few weeks. It definitely goes along with my tongue-in-cheek comments about all the organization tips on Pinterest. You don’t have to organize what you don’t own. 

Raise your hand if you think you need more storage space in your home. Anyone think that if they just had more storage areas, their home would be easier to maintain? Sometimes I wish my home had more closets, especially a dedicated linen closet. But, I’ve found a way around that and, honestly, I don’t need a separate space to keep towels and sheets, which means it’s probably more of a want and not a need.

Of course, if you live in a small home, your storage options may be limited. You’ll likely have to use tried-and-true techniques (maximize vertical space, use under bed storage, hooks, armoires, etc.) and take advantage of creative solutions, like using multi-purpose furniture or hiding things in plain sight. You might even come up with some unconventional ways to keep your stuff, like using a car or minivan (that isn’t needed for transportation) as storage space.

In a recent blog post over at Extraordinary Observations, Storing Private Stuff in Public Space, the author started giving this some thought. He reasoned that it would be very convenient (the vehicle would be parked close to his home) and when he crunched the numbers, he found that it would be a cost effective option, too.

… street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

It’s an interesting notion and it seems to make sense from a monetary standpoint. For anyone seriously considering this as a solution, another question comes to mind. Why not reduce your stash so that the car isn’t needed for storage? You wouldn’t have to worry about the types of things you could store in your vehicle (since it’s not temperature controlled) nor would you have to be concerned about someone stealing it. With one less spot to maintain, you’d also have less work to do, fewer decisions to make, and more time to focus on other things. And, you’d have the option of selling or donating your car, both of which come with financial benefits.

Though the benefits of living with less are clear, going through the process is not always straightforward or easy, especially when you have to let go of things that you’re emotionally attached to. When faced with the task of uncluttering and downsizing, it’s important to remain focused on the positive outcomes of reducing the number of things you own (particularly if you don’t use or want them). Keep in mind that you can also handpick who receives certain items which can help put your mind at ease. Of course, simplifying doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything. You’re simply prioritizing and carefully selecting which items you will bring the most value to your life.

Ultimately, anyone going through this process will need to answer this question: Will a storage unit (of any type) be a regular and permanent part of your life, or would you prefer to find a way to live well with less?

Do You Have the Guts to Simplify?

Stephanie Stevens

Denise’s notes: This week’s post is by guest blogger, Stephanie Lynn Stevens. I stumbled across Stephanie’s blog via Living Simple Free’s weekend reads a few months ago. I knew instantly that if she and I lived closer, we’d be buds! Enjoy!HoHo
I have written before about how overwhelmed I was at our old house with so much stuff.

I was way too sick to declutter or even to wrap my mind around what this should look like.

That is one of the main reasons things got worse in the housekeeping department, not better.

But the other half is that I just didn’t have the guts to let stuff go.

I would look at the stack of lovely but rarely-used puzzles and feel so much mommy guilt for wanting to get rid of them.

That missing piece would probably turn up, puzzles are educational, and when the kids did want to work a puzzle they really enjoyed it.  Besides, it was a special gift from ____________.

So I’d hang onto it.

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding stuff. The packrat’s famous excuse is “I might need it someday.”

For others of us, we just like our stuff.

Have you ever watched the show Clean House?  Remember the people who don’t want to get rid of their 1980’s shoes because they might come back in style or they wore them on their first date?

It’s ridiculous when we see it in someone else, but a lot of us do the same thing.

My sister, who has a great ability to let things go, says we should treat clutter like a poisonous snake.

But for some of us, it’s a snake we can’t bring ourselves to kill.

I wish I had been not only able, but willing to pitch my stuff.  I know now that I wouldn’t have missed most of it.

Do you have the guts to get rid of your stuff?

A challenge: What are you going to get rid of TODAY?

Embrace freedom!

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Denise’s notes: I’m starting two new projects (I know *rolls eyes*…THAT certainly helps with living a simple lifestyle! Whatever.) Anyway…if you are a subscriber, check out my new (low maintenance) blog. If you live close to me, soon you will see a cool addition to the neighborhood in my yard. I need books for all ages, so if you are decluttering your bookshelf soon…I’ll take those old books! So excited!