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!


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!

Simplicity Is An Inside Job

Hmmm. Simplicity. What does that even mean? One of the most interesting epiphanies I’ve had over the last two years was the realization that each time I chose to add an activity to my calendar or an item to my closet, I was mostly seeking fulfillment. Looking back it seems like ‘crazy talk’ when I say that out loud, but you see, I always felt there was something missing from my life. What never occurred to me was that somethingwas me. I was missing from my life. The more activities I added, the more responsibilities I accepted, the more possessions I bought only created more of a void. Those things separated me from the stillness I needed to really get to know myself . Finally I started to realize what really mattered to me was spending time with my friends and family, reading a book, writing or putting another spin on my already-fantastic banana bread recipe. Listening to a really great songwriter and getting a super-restful night of sleep were also things I realized I needed in my life to be happy.

Those things, the ones that give me the greatest joy, are the simplest. They don’t require a season pass or a new outfit. They don’t ask me to spend hundreds of dollars or even to clean my house. This may seem simple to some, maybe even a bit boring, but to me they are the lifeline to keeping my sanity.

Simplicity means making room for the things that really matter amongst the noise of life. Some of us are so busy and so caught up with impressing other people that we don’t even know what that means. Linda Breen Pierce’s book, Choosing Simplicity, reminds us that many of the challenges we create – and even some of the health issues we have – are consequences of our belief that we have to have everything. Finding value in what you NEED versus having everything you WANT gives you freedom to say “I choose to relax.” I spent a lot of my life seeking the impressive career, amassing material possessions, and purchasing letters to plug in after my name by way of huge student loan debt. In the end, I realized what I really love to do wasn’t enhanced by any of those things. In fact, it took me 28 years to realize what my 8th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Childers, learned about me the first week of school. I love to read and I love to write. Neither of those require an MBA nor do they require a 4,000 square foot house.

At some point, hopefully, everyone who feels lost can come to the realization they are missing out on the things they truly value and enjoy in order to live a life someone, at some point, told them they should live. There are a lot of reasons why we believe that line of nonsense,and it takes some longer than others to realize it is just that: nonsense. But, of course, the turning point for many is one simple question: Why are you living your life?

You don’t have to live in the country to enjoy a simpler life. You can own more than 100 things. You can paint your walls any color you desire. You can buy your vegetables at the grocery store. The change to living a more free and balanced – more simple – life comes from within you – not outside of you. Living outside of yourself is what got you into this mess in the first place. Pick a handful of things you really value – and that should be enough to start you on your journey.

If you’ve read through past posts, you know my story. I won’t bore you with it again for awhile. But in the coming months you will hear from some of my favorite people who left an old life behind to pursue the life they truly value. Ken, who left a high stress broadcasting position to open a thrift store; Kathryn, an author who left her full-time job to finally finish her novel; and Liz, a world traveler who bought an $8 wedding dress at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and buys the majority of her possessions from Craigslist so she and her husband can have the resources needed travel to far away lands. My plan for this year’s blog schedule has lead me to some very interesting people and I hope you will be as inspired by them a I am.

Weekly Challenge:

Is there something on your calendar that you just dread? Can you get rid of it? For me I host a monthly database management group (I know, right. Sounds so exciting…!) but lately it hasn’t done anything to light my fire. So, this week I have decided to send out the notice that the meeting is cancelled. Forever. What can you get rid of this week?

And, March is almost upon us. Let’s prepare mentally for the challenge:

March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

Sharing the Love…

As my editor, Kathryn, looks over several of my newest blog posts, I decided to share some inspirational pieces with you.  I made a promise to my readers that I would stay on track this year and I want to keep the momentum. If you ever wondered how I got started in this new lifestyle and developed this mindset, then I want to introduce you to some of my favorite people!

Grab some hot cocoa, a cup of coffee, or a nice steaming cup of tea.  Settle in.  Relax.  (How can I?  I’m so damn busy?!?!)  Just do it, already.  It’s important to take a deep breath, rest, and restore your soul.  Start now.  And start reading about some of these amazing lives…

Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker.  I will sound like a complete cult follower and a possible weirdo by admitting this out loud about a man I have never met but JOSH BECKER changed my life.  If I didn’t love to write so much and share my battle with materialism with the world, I’d simply just redirect to you Josh’s blog every week.  No one says it better than Becker.

Simple Mom by Tsh Oxenreider:  You don’t have to be a mom to enjoy what Tsh has to say about living a simple life.  She’s an easy read and her ideas are a breeze to carry out.  I picked up her book, Organized Simplicity, at the library (I don’t buy books anymore 🙂 because, well, that takes up space).

Get Simplifized by Dan and Vanessa Hayes:  More of any organizational blog than living the life blog, but they have some excellent tips.  My favorite, and definitely on my wish list, is to build a ‘home office shed’ for both myself and my husband since we both work at home.  That would free up two rooms in our house, or help us realize maybe we could even downsize more (Although, my house payment is less than $620 a month…so I’m pleased with the space and payment.  It might be hard to find something better).

The Complete Guide To Imperfect Homemaking by Kelly Oribine.  I started following Kelly on another blog but since the birth of her 6th (5th??  7th?? ) child she’s only able to maintain one blog now (What???  Really, Kelly.  Get on the ball. 🙂 ) so I’m left to catch up with her on Imperfect Homemaking.  That’s okay.  I love her simple style and love that she manages to raise that many children on one income.  She rocks.

365 Less Things by Colleen Madsen.  Like me, Colleen had no intention in starting some big self-improvement project, nor did she set out to change the world.  Well, she’d done both.  Her practical application to reducing clutter is easy to follow and über easy to implement!

Organised Castle by Fairy.  Just starting her journey into the world of blogging, I can totally related to the challenge of finding simplicity but also finding time to share the message.  She links to several awesome like-minded souls (and even mentions me!!) so check her out.

Finding Contentment – Thoughts on the Downsized Life by Donald Miller.  Some people believe that amassing possessions and debt is the key to being more happy but Donald is not one of them.  He’s not totally convinced that downsizing will make anyone happier, but he does believe that it is a huge component.

I believe when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.  I was at the end of my rope.  I was completely unhappy, stressed out, and felt like I had no free time at all.  I stumbled across this blog one night, and the rest is history.  I hope to be part of the community of people changing the lives of others with my story.  Enjoy that cup of coffee!

Ten Ways I Found Simplicity

When I first sought a life of simplicity, I knew I wanted three things:  Balance, freedom and joy.  I never really set out to ‘live a simple life’ – but in wanting those three specific things, I needed ways to improve in areas that were wreaking havoc with my dreams.  Looking back, the first step in having balance, freedom and joy was to list all the ways my current lifestyle was distracting me from my true intentions.  I revisited my list last week as I planned the ‘Sho-Me Simplicity’ blogs for 2013.  Let’s start this year off with my list and see if you can start here too…

  1. My ‘Stuff’ – Closets overflowed. The garage was an obstacle course. My car was messy. And even though I don’t like to cook much, I had become a victim of the latest rage in ‘new appliances’.  Not only was I tripping over stuff, buying it was keeping me locked under a burden of  debt.  As the cycle (buy…organize…store) continued I realized every room of my house was draining my energy.  I realized what most people on Pinterest have yet to realize:  No matter how cool the ‘organization’ tip is, the truth is, I was still buying, organizing and storing things I  absolutely did not need.  I started with a closet and sorted my way through each room of my house.  Once I realized I was hanging on to things for emotional reasons, it was easier to start purging. I still have things I could donate or sell, but its been a wonderful work in progress.
  2. My Schedule – None of us can “make time” and even “manage time”.  The entire concept is a fallacy.  I can only manage myself using the time I have.  By owning more than I needed, I didn’t have time to do what I really wanted to do because I was too busy cleaning, organizing or maintaining my possessions.  When I gave myself permission to start cleansing my life of useless possessions and activities, I found I could manage myself better and even started spending more time with my friends and family.
  3. My Lofty Plans – I’m an overachiever.  I take on waaaaayyyy too much.  I would have loved to “Keep Calm and Carry On” but the truth is I couldn’t.  I was too  busy.  Each New Year brought at least 14 ‘goals’ (Two in each category:  Finance, Career, Spiritual, etc. etc. – Which is totally STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!).  I finally realized that setting ONLY ONE GOAL was the best thing I could do.   In fact, I was even able to reach that goal because the pressure was off and I could stay focused. Once I finished it, I just added another one to my list.  I didn’t set any this year.  Yep.  Not one goal.
  4. My Emotions – Negative emotions don’t benefit anyone and most likely are useless. Holding on to negative emotions such as resentment, hate, jealousy and bitterness can manifest in various ways in the human body causing anything  from acid reflux to cancer.  My new mantra is “That’s not my issue”…and that has given me so much peace.  I still get angry…but I don’t hold on to it.  I still get anxious but I have learned that trusting the process helps ease that emotion.  Keeping my emotions in check has given me the freedom to not care.  It’s been nice to not care about things that are not my issue.  So freeing.
  5. My Spending Habits – Debt was holding me captive. Honestly, it wasn’t even that much debt and I seriously could have knocked it out in about 24 months if I hadn’t been buying all this stuff (see point #1).  So now I don’t buy what I don’t really need and I’m finding that I’m not being held hostage anymore.  Do I want luxury  items?  Well, yes, at times I  do.  And I even still buy things.  Just because I want to live a simple life doesn’t mean I don’t buy ANYTHING.  I’m just more choosy.  Before I may have purchased 6 items on sale and spent $100.  Now I may spend $110 on one item of better quality.  My favorite combination is to get the better quality item on sale.  Which is usually a fluke because I don’t just go ‘shopping for sales’.  Seriously.  In fact, I hate sales.  (See the photo below for why!) I only need one anyway. (Someday I’ll tell you about my new Pyrex  dish fetish.)
My sis-in-law texted me this photo of a shoe sale she was at at the end of 2012. Eeesh. A nightmare flu-frenzy if you ask me.

6. My Voice – Because I like to teach, so I talk – a lot (okay. too much).  But honestly, the less I speak, the better I hear.  In keeping with The Four Agreements, I do my best to be impeccable with my speech which means I try to avoid gossip.  My husband comes from a large family and they are all very close so they share each other’s news all the time.  It’s all a bit mind-blowing to me and I’m sure I seem a little ‘standoffish’ to some but I don’t really talk on the phone much or share information.  But, the good news is if people tell me something, I don’t use it as the leading point of conversation with the next person.  I figure if this cousin wants that cousin to know…that cousin can tell this cousin.  It’s not my job to broadcast the family news.

7. My Diet – I’m not as naughty as you think, so relax.  But, I realized that the fewer ingredients my food has the better it is for me.  I recently started making baby food for my little guy and his foods are so simple: Apples, pears, carrots, peas, and green beans.  My food…well, um…even “Mac & Cheese” has  more ingredients than just macaroni and cheese.  Minimizing unhealthy, unpronounceable foods improves my energy level in the short-term and just might improve my      triglycerides and glucose levels in the long run.  If I don’t have time to eat my veggies, I juice them.  Despite the ‘don’t drink juice’ advocates, I still believe drinking my health food is better than nothing at all.

8. My Screen time –I will publicly admit to a slight addiction to social media.  However, I realized a year ago that the more engaged I was on social media, the less of a social life I had.  (As my step daughter would say…”Imagine the irony”.  I just love her!!) As far as for television, I just had to stop watching the news altogether and limit my entertainment time.  I majored in marketing so I know the tricks and truly, I don’t need to know how terribly uncool I am because I don’t own an iPad, or that the unemployment rate is through the roof.  I have enough on my plate to worry about  – no need to invent problems or get constant 30-second reminders that I should buy something I don’t need.

9. My Connections – People often gripe that they can’t reach me by phone.  Well, that’s because after 8 pm, I power down.  Once a month I take a weekend off Facebook and I don’t read email more than twice a week.  There’s a reason the Amish are so relaxed…and since I don’t plan to buy a horse and buggy, I’m just going to take time for quiet.  This time last year I challenged myself and posted “If you want to see me, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and we can      chat.”  What happened?  Not a lot, but I began spending more time with fewer people and I feel a deeper connection to them.

10. My Multi-Tasking – Finally research is catching up to prove what men all over the world have known all along: Multi-tasking does not work! God created the entire Universe, but it was a focused effort each day.  When He was      creating the sun and moon and stars, He wasn’t thinking about how many land-dwelling beings He was going to make the next day. Be SINGLE  FOCUSED.  It’s a lost art, but so worth it.

So that’s my list.  That’s where it all started for me and it is the list I want to use as a jumping off point for this year’s blog posts on Sho-Me Simplicity.  At first I got caught up in the Pinterest frenzy of organizing and storage tips – thinking I could use this as a way to help you ORGANIZE your life…but truthfully, that’s not me.  I want you to SIMPLIFY your life and I still believe that the less we own, the better off we will be.  So, I’m sticking with the strategy that less is more.  If you want organization tips, unsubscribe from my blog and, well, go waste your time on Pinterest.



*I haven’t hired an editor.  I write because I love it.  I post it quickly because I’m excited.  Being rich or famous is not really my intention.  Besides, if I was famous or rich, there would be no typos because there would be an editor.  Until then…deal with it.

A Recipe For Life

So, last week I was faced with a major dilemma.  I started making chocolate chips cookies and realized, mid-recipe, that the largest mixing bowl I owned would not actually hold the entire batch of cookie dough.  I was stuck.  I panicked.  I told my friend “I need to buy a bigger bowl so I can eventually make this cookie dough correctly.”

A week later, with some down time, I stumbled (and I say “stumbled” because I’m sleep deprived these days) into some of my favorite blogs.  If you’ve been following me, you know the ones: The minimalism blogs.  I had been feeling so overwhelmed by the onslaught of baby items I’ve acquired recently (including, um, a baby) that I needed a quick reminder of what I was trying to do with my life and finances.  And after a few minutes of reading some of my favorites, I suddenly remembered my cookie-dough dilemma and I realized:  I didn’t need a bigger bowl.  I needed a smaller recipe.

Have many times have we done this?  Thought we needed a bigger bowl when in reality we really needed a smaller recipe?  I’ve done it a million times.  I bet you have, too, and not even realized it.

  • I need a bigger house.
  • I need a bigger garage.
  • I need more clothes in my wardrobe.
  • I need a bigger kitchen.
  • I need a bigger refrigerator.
  • I need a bigger dining room table.
  • I need a bigger salary.
  • I need a bigger wine glass.  (Ha-ha!  Just kidding!)

But what if we didn’t need those bigger things?  We just needed a smaller idea of what we need versus what we want.  When we start thinking we need something bigger than we actually do, we start being dissatisfied with what we have.

“To be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what you do have.” – Ken Keyes Jr.

Isn’t that true?  Doesn’t Paul (yeah, Paul of the Bible Paul) say “I’m learning to be content”?  He doesn’t say “I am fully content” because I think he’s wise enough to realize that even he, at  times, wishes for a bigger bowl.  But then he realizes a bigger bowl is truly not the answer and the key to his enlightenment is to scale back on his recipe.

So, instead of our list above, what if we thought the following:

  • If I get rid of all the extra stuff in storage, I would find that my house is the perfect size.
  • If I traded in my SUV for a smaller, more energy efficient car, then my garage would be perfect.
  • If I bought wardrobe pieces that were ‘classic’ and fit me better – even if they were more expensive – I would need less.
  • If I got rid of the griddle, the blender, the food processor, the waffle iron (or any number of items not needed or used) my kitchen would be less ‘full’ of items that drain my energy.  (My guilty pleasure?  I once had 3 bread makers, 6 ginormous pitchers, and saved glass jars to ‘reuse’.  I bet I had 20 at one point.  Now I struggle because I own a juicer and a Ninja.  Do I need both??  I don’t know.  Today I do, so I won’t donate either right away.)
  • If I bought only what I truly needed at the grocery store instead of ‘stockpiling’ items that were on sale ‘just in case’ then my refrigerator would be perfect.
  • If I stopped believing I was going to regularly entertain 12 people at a time, my dining room table – which seats 4 – would most likely work.  For those extraordinary times:  Folding tables and folding chairs.  It’s only once a year, if that.
  • If I had less debt, my salary would be enough.
  • And that wine glass…well…maybe another blog on self-indulgence J

Anyway, you get my point, right?  If, for just a moment, we’d realize that more is not always a good thing and bigger is not always better – we’d be free to embrace allowing ourselves to let go of old thoughts.  Our ‘stuff’ does not define us.  An empty corner in the living room does not scream “I can’t afford to buy something to put here.”  An empty corner in the living room does quietly remind us, however, “I don’t have to dust something and so I have time to go to the park and play with my son.”  How cool, right?

So – if you find that something isn’t working for you, as in “This isn’t big enough” – then I urge you to consider that maybe it is big enough…you are just trying to mix up the wrong recipe for your life.  I love getting rid of things.  I think I like getting rid of things more than I like buying things.   Even as I write, I’m looking around and see at least ten items that need to go in order for me to have more room to breathe.  My husband has learned to recognize this look and clears out before I decide that he has to go, too (Not really – but I do tend to make rash decisions on my cleaning/decluttering).

I bet, if you tried really hard, you could get rid of at least ten items this week.  If you do…let me know!  I’d love to hear all about it!

Simple Things in Life Just Are

“The problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat.”  Lily Tomlin

I’ve been struggling this week with a topic.  Life has calmed down so much since I went all rational-minimalist it seems that I’ve partially reached my goal:  To live a simpler life.  This is a good thing, though, make no mistake about it.  For someone as ambitious and goal-driven as myself, it is difficult to not have a list of things to do on the weekend.  In fact, I used to be so busy on the weekends I would joke that I couldn’t wait until Monday to return to work just so I could relax.  But, alas, I reached down deep inside me and found a topic I’m passionate about and decided to get to work.  After all, isn’t this blog about sharing my passions with others and hoping I impact their life a bit?

I’ve been following Adam Baker’s blog, Man Vs. Debt, and recently he announced the completion of a fantastic project called “I’m Fine, Thanks” which is so amazingly awesome and completely inspiring that I get goosebumps just adding a hyper-link to my own blog.   Most people I know think this entire idea is a bit radical but I find myself getting all warm and fuzzy when I think about the idea.  And here’s why…

My husband and I chose to live differently than most people.  I admit, it did start out as a ‘have-to’ lifestyle where without two steady paychecks and annual salaries over $100K, I felt a bit deprived.  ‘Doing without’ seemed more like a dreadful thing than something exciting.  But we started a journey and added a little bit of mind-shifting thoughts.  We studied simplicity and the new-minimalism mindset, and ‘debt free living’… only to realize, we prefer this lifestyle over the ‘rat race’.   We dig it.  It suits us.

I am fortunate to have a job where I work from home without much supervision.  It is very much like being self-employed except that I know where my next paycheck is coming from (at least for now) and I’m extremely grateful to be blessed by this sweet little set up.  I also draw a great income which is equivilant to many of our friends who work two jobs to make ends meet.  So, yes.  We are blessed.  We make enough money that we can live a simple life, pay all our bills, have a bit of play money on the side, and enjoy our life.  My husband is a musician and he spends his time working up songs and playing with various local bands.  He brings in enough money – and usually just at the right time – to allow us to buy those extras or take a weekend trip.  He also works from home and we get to see a lot of each other throughout the day – but we stay in separate corners enough so we can still enjoy each others company.  We don’t have a problem with this set up.  But it seems other people do.  It seems that not having a ‘real job’ is a real problem for some people when they hear about our situation, especially that my husband doesn’t get up on Monday to dress for a job he hates.  It chaps my ass because we are living our American Dream – and it seems to bother other people because it challenges their idea of what the American Dream is.  I could use this time to go on and on about some of the mean, hurtful things people (even family!) say about how we’ve chosen to live our life, but I’ve made a promise to you, dear readers, to keep this upbeat and encouraging…and so I will.  Here are just a few things are lifestyle has allowed us – or will allow us – to do:

1) My husband single-handedly raised the value of our house by $12,000.  Because my husband doesn’t have a ‘real job’ he had all the time in the world to remodel our kitchen by himself.  It took about 2 months, but it looks so much better than it did and we didn’t go crazy with stainless appliances and granite counter tops, but even so, a friend with a real estate background said the modest upgrades added about $12K in equity to the house.  I’m extremely proud of my kitchen and proud of my husband for taking on this project – especially when I consider the fact that he isn’t a construction worker and I know he’d rather be practicing his guitar than working 12-hour days on this ‘job’. It is truly beautiful – and all done on just under $1,000.  (I’ll say this:  My husband is the hardest working unemployed person in the world and I’m blessed by his creativity!!!!)

2) We will save about $400 a week in childcare.  I work from home, my husband works from home.  I work during the day, he works mostly nights and weekends.  I don’t need to go into great detail here – but I will tell you that if the roles were reversed, and my husband brought in my salary and I worked part time no body would say a word.  We are, truly, the modern family.  We get to raise our child instead of sticking him in daycare with a bunch of people we barely know.  We get to instill our values in him instead of correcting bad behavior taught by people with values different from our own.  I know there are many women who envy this but because of the boat, the vacation rentals, and the second car payment, can’t afford to do it.

3) We can examine the possibility of homeschooling.  I admit, I once considered homeschooling to be concept of the religious-right, but the more I learn about the lifestyle, the more I am drawn to it.  The most interesting thing about bringing up homeschooling in conversation is that the three people who seem to support my idea the most are teachers.  Interesting.  It speaks volumes to me when public educators are encouraging me to NOT provide public education for my child.  It solidifies my reasons (which are non-religious and non-‘right’) to home school.  Anyway, I have almost 6 years to think about it, so I may change my mind.  I’ll keep you posted.

4) We can take fun little day (or weekend trips).  Admittedly, extravagant vacations like cruises and week long tours of Disneyland are not in our budget but even if they were…those kinds of vacations just do not sound like fun to us.  By not taking a huge, expensive week long vacation, we get to take in more fun things during the year, and maybe even learn something new in the process. I like to get in my car and drive to the lake and chill out by the water.  My husband likes to visit flea markets and antique stores in hopes of coming across some vintage guitar or an old tool worth its weight in gold.  We want to take our child to Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Yellowstone National Forest, and float down the Buffalo River.  I want him to explore how musical instruments are made by craftsmen/women, and learn how important our freedom is by hearing stories by local veterans.  Disneyland sounds completely nauseating to me (I’ve been there 8 times in my life and really only remember the Monte Cristo sandwiches at the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant and the long lines for the Matterhorn.  I’m sure this would sadden my parents to know they spent all this money on those trips).  The happiest place on earth?  Really?  I’m never happy when I have to pay $8 for a hot dog. Our little day trips allow us to meet some of the coolest people, and because we aren’t pressed for time, we can even chat awhile with them. My husband and I still talk about the woman making violins we met at Silver Dollar City one rainy October day and the 10-year old fiddle player who brought tears to my eyes when he played. Those were the highlights of that day trip – oh, and of course, the $6 funnel cake.  Even minimalists indulge.

5) We have time to be creative.  So many of my friends work all week long, drag their kids to a million activities, and then spend the weekends catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, lawn care, etc.  My husband practices.  I try new recipes (because I really am trying to embrace cooking!!).  He works in his workshop drawing plans for a new guitar.  I make some curtains or decorate the nursery.  I buy groceries during the week.  He mows the lawn whenever.  Laundry?  I do a load each day and its manageable.  The point is, our ‘weekday’ lifestyle is so awesome that a weekend day is just another day – but with less to do.  It’s so freaking awesome. 

So, while I could go on a major tangent about the butt-head statements made by those who don’t understand why we do what we do, I choose to focus on the really cool stuff we get to do that they don’t.  By choosing to life a ‘non-excessive’ lifestyle (a.k.a. Rational Minimalism) our priorities and values have a bit of breathing room.  We may not have a closet full of clothes (we did…but we got rid of most of them) or a garage full of recreational items (who needs a snow board in Missouri??) our house is always 15 minutes away from being presentable to company and grilled-dinner for our closest friends is not a huge production.  We prefer our life this way.  And to those who don’t understand it, or who criticize it…I’ll end with my favorite statement in the entire world:  “Sounds like that’s your issue because it certainly isn’t mine…”



Self-Sacrifice is not always the best route for Minimalists.

As most of you know, about a year ago I embraced a ‘rational minimalism’ concept and have been weeding out the items in my life I don’t really need or use anymore.  Such items have included two bread makers, three pitchers (We had six!  Only two people live here!), DVDs, books, and the list goes on and on.  Seriously, the trips to the local thrift store seemed endless for awhile.   The entire idea behind this concept is to only spend money on the items you really want or need, even if it costs more.  Honestly, to me, Rational Minimalism isn’t about buying all your clothes at thrift stores and purchasing VHS tapes at yard sales for entertainment (although I do love me some good flea market finds!!).  It’s about saving and waiting for the items you really need to make life more enjoyable – and having the money to buy the really good thing versus the really cheap thing.

So, this week I went through the guest bedroom (because now it is the guest room/office) and pairing items down to meet the basic necessities for overnight guests.  I love the idea of having this ‘sanctuary of coziness’ for overnight guests, but in reality, I live in a three bedroom house and I need the room for something I do everyday – WORK! As luck would have it, everything I do these days seems to have a ‘life lesson’ attached to it and this process was no different.  As I went through all the items in the room, I realized something about myself that never really occurred to me before, and I’m about to share that revelation with you.  It’s actually not very pretty.  I realized I used to care more about what others, who rarely see me, thought of me than those who give portions of their life to me every day to show me how they love me.  In other words, I was saving GOOD STUFF for overnight guests and trying to pretend that old, worn out stuff was okay for me and my family.  And I really do mean ‘used to’ because this journey has made me learn a lot about myself and life’s simplicity.  Here’s the case in point:

As I organized the guest storage center, I came across ten beautiful, fluffy white towels.  The white towels were purchased about two years ago when Kohl’s had a super-dooper sale on linens and I remember thinking to myself “I’m going to get these towels and save them for overnight guests so that they don’t have to use our old towels.”  So, I purchased them.  And I saved them – all rolled up neatly and organized within the guest room cabinet – proudly waiting to be used by overnight guests.  And you know what? We only had overnight guests twice this year.  And not one of them mentioned the pretty white towels.  In fact, one only stayed a night and never used one of my pretty white towels.  And, I noticed some of these towels STILL had the price tag on them which means NO ONE used them!  What I realized this morning, as I took another look at those towels was this:  I was saving these towels for people who really don’t notice while the man I love (and even myself!!) use icky old tattered and bleach stained towels.  Clean…but ratty.  So I took those pretty white towels…and I marched right into my bath room and put those towels in the family towel closet.  And I’m going to use them myself and share them with my hubby because he’s really the most important person in my life.

Now, before you go and get all Martha Stewart on me, (“Umph!  That’s not how you create a comfy guest experience!!!”) I will admit I left items that seem a bit unnecessary.  I did leave the basket of ‘personal hygiene items’ for my overnight guests.  I left the basket of note cards, pens and stamps (although I hope none of my guests really don’t stay so long that they need to write to someone far way!!  LOL.), and there is still a small bedside pitcher for water.  There’s a CD player, several paperback books and Better Homes and Garden magazines.  I’m not completely inhospitable.  But, I’ve given up some space to keep my overnight guest room…I should, at least, be able to have some really nice towels out of the deal, right??  What I realized is I want my family – the people who make my life complete and live with me every day – to enjoy some luxuries, too.  You know?

So…if you come to stay with us…you will find along with my 8 plates and unmatched (cool, but unmatched) coffee mugs several nice towels in the bath room.  And if you find that my towels aren’t quite ‘new enough’ for you or that my “Un-Martha Stewart Before Prison” like guest room does not meet your expectations, then I have to tell you this:  The Holiday Inn is lovely this time of year and even has a swimming pool.  And they have lots of fluffy white towels. We will meet for dinner outside on our deck.  Bring your own chair because I only have two.