Five Unexpected Ways Simplicity Provides Freedom

Good morning, Dear Reader! For all my complaining about the hot weather in the later months assigned to what we call ‘autumn’, I’m getting what I’m owed. Really. Freakin’. Cold. Weather. We went from summer to freezing our asses off in record time. Again – where is that one place that is between 50-70 degrees all year long?

Recently, I’ve been pondering the holidays. I’m faced with the challenge of coming up with something I ‘want’ because people ask. Truthfully, I don’t want anything that I couldn’t buy myself. And I haven’t bought it because I don’t want to clean it. Really. It’s true.

Some wait their entire lives for the feeling of contentment, and – I hope I don’t jinx it – I finally have it. I moved into a tiny home (not a tiny, tiny home…mine is 950 sq. ft) last August, and I could not be happier with the amount of space I have. I currently rent, and I realize the payments are steep, but it’s a good fit for us. At the same time, my kiddo finishes elementary school, where he started five years ago. He flourishes there, and I don’t want to be the person who yanks him out. So I’m doing my best to live in the “now”, which isn’t easy when others keep asking what’s next for us. 

I don’t fucking know, Karen. Mind your own business.

That said, about a week ago, some friends and I talked about getting together soon. One said, “We haven’t seen your new place! We should get together there!” and I don’t know what happened but…

A little bit of panic set in.

What if they think I’m poor because of how little I have? What if they feel they need to buy me stuff because I only have four glasses and two coffee mugs? What if they look in my bedroom, see my sparsely decorated room, and judge me for that? 

Wow. Right? I mean, I choose to live this way. So why am I so terrified of what others think? Because, y’all, despite all the memes about not giving a shit about what others think, not one of us is immune to society’s programming one hundred percent of the time. All of us, from time to time, feel vulnerable.

I asked a friend’s son a few weeks ago why he felt he needed such a fancy truck. Of course, he’s strapped for cash now that he bought a newer vehicle, and his reply was, “Chicks dig trucks. And good chicks dig nicer trucks.” I remember thinking, “Why would you want a snobby ‘chick’ like that?” But…didn’t I do the same thing when my closest friends asked to come over? Insecurity comes in all forms, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve gotten over it and decided to invite people over. I told them to determine who has the best spine because that is who will be sitting on the floor. I don’t have room to seat more than five people. My dining table seats two. I have no room for overnight guests. And if you plan to shower, come on Mondays. I have four towels. Monday, they will all be clean.

Despite this, I told another friend that I’m maxed out on space I can physically and mentally handle. I work full-time, I’m a single parent, and I volunteer in my community. I have hobbies. I don’t want more rooms to clean and floor space to mop. 

Simplicity grounds me. I feel calm and peaceful when everything is in its place, yet still has a splash of that ‘lived in’ feel.

To me, simplicity offers five benefits I’ve desired for many years. I will always try to convince folks to live a simple lifestyle – and I have since 2011, when this blog first started. Of course, life gets messy sometimes with all it throws our way, so shouldn’t we rely on something ‘constant’ in those cases? Simplicity is my constant. 

So. Grab that drink. Settle in. I’m going to tell you about five ways simplicity benefits me – and you, should you accept this mission.

1. Less stress.

As I mentioned, I’m a busy gal. I don’t want to think about cleaning my house on my days off from work. My brain is often overloaded with my anxiety, so the less I have to look at, the calmer I am. I cannot function when things are messy. When I was a professional grant writer, my colleagues always knew when a deadline was approaching because I’d spend hours cleaning and reorganizing my office. I called it ‘pre-writing planning’. I had to do that before I could write. 

2. I save money.

I never set out to be a cheapskate, and I’m not one. Simplicity and rational minimalism are not really about frugality, although saving money seems to be a by-product of the lifestyle. Often, too, I can find things I need at thrift stores. I don’t buy other people’s junk for the sake of having more trash in my home. But when I can find a perfectly good Caphlone skillet for six bucks, and I need a skillet…I’m going to buy THAT skillet. I rarely go shopping as a pastime. Admittedly, during the COVID lockdown, I got pretty well-acquainted with my Amazon cart – a habit I’m still attempting to break. 

3. I’m pretty organized.

As I mentioned, I don’t function well in a messy space. The messiest area of my home is my desk. It always is, for which there is no excuse. But other than that, I pretty much know where everything I own is located. That’s not to say that I don’t have a junk drawer. I do. (And a few junk baskets, if I’m honest.) But ask me where that one little item is…and I most likely know where it resides. My car keys go in one place. My purse is in another. Backpacks, bandaids, extra bottles of Gatorade…all have a home. 

4. Less toys means more creativity.

Some people criticize the amount of time I let my kiddo spend on his tablet. But, it isn’t as though he’s just gaming all day. He’s creating games for other people. That’s different. In fact, that’s a skill set that can – and does – earn him a little bit of dough. I, too, have very few toys. This allows me to have more time to write. I enrolled in a 24 week front-end developer to gain marketable skills. After that, photography lessons. 

5. Simplicity provides space for what I truly value.

The most important person on the planet to me is my son. With less space and clutter to consume me, we can spend evenings together and take mini-roadtrips to see friends on the weekends. I can work on my own hobbies and I’m currently working through a 28-day challenge to keep my cleaning schedule intact. I am a bit stingy with my free time, but I do make time for those who are important.

So, my near-panic attack when my friend suggested coming over reinforced to me that my simple little life is okay. Of course, I’ve been living this lifestyle for a over a decade (with a few bumps in the road here and there). But, it is always good to reflect on the importance of it from time to time.

How about you, Dear Reader? What changes do you want to make to find simplicity in your little corner of the world? What do you already embrace as a practice? 

As always, here’s your song. I had no idea who Casey Abrams was until I found this little gem, but you can bet your bottom I’m going to be looking him up on Spotify this weekend. Enjoy your weekend, and try not to freeze to death.

Seven Tips To Declutter

Good morning, dear Reader! The weather this week is particularly fantastic here in the Ozarks. I wanted to get out with my super-awesome electric mower to make the front yard look spiffy but I got lazy. Again, I’m living amongst boxes, which can be overwhelming for a person who likes organization. The outdoors proves to be a safe haven from the chaos, so I took advantage of the weather and retreated outside as much as possible – but not by doing yard work.

I sit here with no plan today; I think I should go back to my roots and write about living a simpler life. I’m being extremely selective on what I’m packing this time around, and I’m not taking everything. I mean, I rarely take ‘everything’ when I move, but I’m really not taking everything this time. I’m wiping the slate clean and only taking those items I find useful and beautiful…which means my Instapot is not coming. I get it; some of you may have consumed the Instapot Kool-Aid. I, however, have not. So, yeah. Does anyone want an Instapot? And, while we are at it…out goes the bread maker, the extra sleeping bag, and the twelve-piece drinkware set. Jeez. I don’t even like twelve people, so why would I have twelve glasses? That just invites trouble.

Nevertheless, if you are so inclined, I thought I’d share how I’m deciding whether or not something goes to my next home. I do my best to declutter regularly and try to limit the items that come home with me in the first place. But, I’ll admit, amidst the pandemic, I’ve spent more time at home with my trigger-happy ‘add to cart’ fingers and 5% cash-back Amazon Store card, so I’ve seen an influx of unnecessary items (and debt). But, now that things are settling down a bit, maybe I can get back on track.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. I’m going to share with you my seven tips to decide whether something goes to Goodwill or not. It is Spring, after all. This is an excellent time to donate items or hold a rubbish sale – or garage sale, tag sale, yard sale…whatever you call it in your state/country. (What do you call it anyway? Comment below.)

Let’s go, shall we?

1) Am I saving this ‘just in case’? I don’t know why I hoard glass jars, but I do. I always think I’ll need them ‘just in case’. I prefer glass to plastic and they do come in handy because I buy a lot of food in bulk. I also like to give food away to friends – which absolves them from feeling like they need to return the empty container. So, besides my glass jar fetish, this ‘just in case’ business is for the birds. Just in case of what exactly? Do some research on what you actually need, just in case, and I promise you…it isn’t that remote from the VCR you no longer own or that weird egg slicer thingy.

2) Do I have duplicates of this item? Somehow I ended up with two huge glass mixing bowls. Also, I have a gazillion screwdrivers and three rakes. Not sure how or when that happened. Sigh. Anyway, duplicates usually show up when you have that ‘just in case’ mentality because you see something you like, buy it, and don’t get rid of the one it replaced. So, pull the trigger. I’m not kidding when I tell you I only have one skillet. It’s true. I only have one skillet.

3) Is this something I have worn in the last year? Piece by piece, I’m building a capsule wardrobe because research shows that we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. If you don’t believe me, walk into your closet, employ the reverse hanger trick. When you wear something over the next six months, hang it back up correctly. In September (six months from now), go back in and look. Donate everything on a ‘backward’ hanger to charity. You didn’t wear it. You don’t need it. The only exception is that one outfit that is your “funeral outfit”, but for me, my funeral outfit is also my hot date outfit because it’s my little black dress. Not sure what that says about my personality, but there you have it.

4) Can I borrow this item if I really need to? Newsflash: Every person on the planet has a beverage cooler. So, I don’t need three of them. I’ve always been able to borrow a cooler and folding chairs and crockpots. (And probably an Instapot if I ever got the itch again, which I doubt will ever happen). If you are local, check out this Tool Library. I have an annual membership, and I’ve borrowed things like table saws, sawhorses, and leaf blowers. And, they are about to get a few donations of screwdrivers and rakes, so, lucky you.

5) Do I have space to store this? I don’t like stuff piling up in my garage so I recently rented a small storage facility to the tune of $50 a month. But, in going through it this week, I found myself with many camping cooking utensils – that I no longer need or want. The most ‘high maintenance’ thing I do while camping is making coffee in my french press. I’m more of the cheese and sausage and granola bar camper. I don’t like to cook while I’m home so imagine me out in the wild. I plan to cancel that storage facility once I get settled, store only what I need in my shed, and park in my garage without all the camping crap around me. Yay!

6) Am I keeping this out of obligation or guilt? Frankly, I don’t struggle with this too much, but you might. Over the last few years, I’ve made it clear to so many that experiences mean more to me than stuff. (I now get a lot of wine and whiskey on special occasions. Yay, me!) Additionally, I have zero child ‘art projects’. Yeah. Zero. When he brings home something cool he made in school, I snap a photo of it, and then…(gasp)…I chuck it. I may not win mother of the year, but I think that ship sailed long before I started throwing away his art projects. Amiright?

7) Do I love it? I have one pair of earrings I rarely wear, but they take up zero space and they are special to me. I have some gloves that belonged to my friend, Bill, who has passed away last year. My friend, Machell, has given me four beautifully crafted quilts she made with her own talented hands. Of course, I will keep all of those things. If you love something, you should keep it, no matter what. Just because I try to live simply doesn’t mean I’m not sentimental. I am just selective.

Hopefully, this gets you started on your garage, closet, or backyard shed. As always, I’m going to leave you with a song that fits a bit with today’s post. I’m feeling restless and I tend to declutter a lot when that happens. I find that the less I own, the less that owns me – which frees up a lot of time and energy to travel and do what I love. I just got back from New England, but I’ve been looking at camping equipment – and feeling the itch to get away again. It’s not a good combination – lol. Plus, the song is catchy. If you plan to clean this weekend, check out this ‘Good Vibrations 2022‘ playlist on my Spotify.

Until next time…bottoms up!

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.

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.

Love,

DJ

*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 Year In Review

Today is New Year’s Eve, and with every New Year’s Eve, I consider ways I can make myself a better person during the 365 days to come.  Usually I write about it, only to revisit the musings a year later and feel bad because I didn’t do any of that stuff I said I would do.  Yet, this year, I revisited my post from last New Year’s Day and I realized I really have done most of the things I set out to do.  And I was proud of myself.  I am proud of myself.

This post is a reflection of what I wrote on January 1, 2011 and my notes on what I said I would do.

1)      I said I was going to clear my schedule a bit.  I did and I didn’t.  I really reduced the amount of activities I had become involved in, and I reduced a lot of ‘clutter’  therefore reducing my responsibilities to my ‘things’.  However, I started a new job in the summer which reeked havoc with my free time.  Alas, I did do my best to protect my weekends from anyone and anything work-related.  The result is that I embraced a new hobby (knitting) and found time once a month to meet with some of my girl friends to just hang out.  Also, my relationship with my husband grew stronger and as I look back on 2011, can really only remember one argument.  That’s really cool since stress & money are the top killers in relationships.  We didn’t have much stress…and we didn’t have much money.  So I guess I was committed to trusting the process.

2)      I took a look at my credit report.  I don’t know about you, but pulling a credit report to me is like going to the principal’s office.  I really get sick at my stomach regarding the entire thing.  However, I didn’t do this until the end of the year, so consequently, I have declared 2012 to be the year I start paying down debt  beginning with changing things in my life that contributed to using or increasing my expenses.   Ironically, getting out of debt started with my decision to quit my job.  I know, right??  But manicures, business suits, airport lattes, data plans on my cell phone, and dry cleaning expenses were a nuisance.  I wanted peace and prosperity.  And I wasn’t getting either.

3)      I re-evaluated my ‘social’-ness on my social networking sites.  I decreased the amount of info on LinkedIn, deleted anyone who reminded me how much I hated high school from my Facebook ‘friends’ list (and even axed a few family members whose drama gave me heartburn).  And decided to make this blog more about helping people embrace the conceptual ideas and less about venting my rage on what had started as a creepy online diary.  To erase my entire cyber footprint  is a fantasy of mine, but I don’t think that is really possible anymore.
4)      I made a list of the 5 people who made 2010 fantastic and I decided to spend more time with them.  Some I didn’t get to see in 2011 as much as I hoped, but they still made the cut for 2012 of which I will make more of an effort to hang out.  At times I kill two birds with one stone, inviting a friend to come to another friends house with me, but still…I now know when things get tough on whom I can really count.

5)      I don’t know if I made something better than anyone else this year, but I did commit myself 110% to all the things I did attempt.  I think my Banana Bread is still the best ever, my second knitted hat was much better than my first knitted hat (and my knitting instructor told her husband “I taught her to knit and I think she’s going to be better than me”.  That was a proud day, since really; I didn’t embrace knitting until sometime in September 2011).

6)      I let go of my quest to earn more and made a promise to spend less.  In fact, at the end of 2011 I looked at the job I mentioned previously and I decided it wasn’t for me.  For one, when you travel for a living you have expenses that other people don’t have.  Even if the company reimburses for meals, you don’t have the comforts of home each night and go out on your own dime to simply fight off the boredom.  It was a difficult decision for me because the firm was great and my co-workers even greater.  But, I didn’t like some of the things I thought I needed to do in order to fit into the role and I didn’t particularly like the fact that I was gone all the time.  I decided to cut spending and find a job that was more in line with my own core values – which at the forefront is ‘simplicity’.  Traveling for a living does nothing to encourage a simplistic lifestyle – starting with dumping all your belongings out twice a week so TSA can rummage through them.  I began to loathe the entire experience.  I started out as a new recruit and quickly began road-weary.  I never wanted to become a veteran business traveler.

7)      I made a list of 10 things I could do without and seriously did an okay job at steering clear of them.  The hardest?  Half & Half in my coffee, wine every night, a data plan on my phone, and pedicures.  After 2011, I will still admit this to you, faithful reader:  I do not miss that data plan AT ALL but I admit…I would truly LOVE getting a pedicure and sipping wine on a Tuesday night. Yes…Every. Tuesday. Night.  And any other night of the week, for that matter.

8)      I finished something.  Oh God.  2011 become the year I battled the infamous knitted hat.  To my close friends and family and the ladies at A New Yarn, it simply became known as ‘THE hat.’  I started this darn thing a month before my husband’s birthday in 2010.  When his birthday came and went, I said “I’ll give it to him on Christmas (2010).”  Then it began…the anniversary gift that never transpired, the Valentine’s Day gift that never transpired, and finally the 2011 birthday gift that never transpired…you get the point.  Everyone said “Maybe you should just get some new yarn or even just admit that this hat isn’t going to happen” to which I would reply “Oh.  This hat will happen.” (For emphasis, reread that statement imagining a slight shake in my voice and gritted teeth.)   In October 2011 I ripped the entire thing out, rolled it all back into a ball and started all over again.  That hat had become the epitome of two things in my life:  Failure and the inability to finish a project.  I took one look at that grey ball of yarn, cast on 100 stitches, and decided once and for all that this hat and I were going to finish what we started.  On Christmas morning, 2011, I threaded the 3 inches of yarn through the top of the hat and pulled it tightly, weaved in the ends, and sighed a bit of relief.  I then wrapped the thing up for a Christmas gift for my husband.  Since then, after 14 months fighting with one hat, I’ve managed to make another one – for myself – in about 14 hours.  I don’t know.  Don’t ask me.

9)      I set one goal in 2011.  That goal was to go to work for a major consulting group.  I reached my goal and realized (although the company is excellent and full of excellent people) that it wasn’t a good fit for me.  I was crushed to realize that all I had worked for up until that point was not all that I had hoped it would be.  Alas, I am sticking to the plan and only going to set two goals for myself in 2012, although I’m toying with not setting any at all – a Virgo’s nightmare.

So the overall arching theme for 2011 was to practice rational minimalism, decrease my desire to buy things I didn’t need, simply my schedule and my life, and spend more time with the people of whom I care about deeply and to decrease the amount of time I spend with energy-sucking, drama-filled individuals.  Overall, I can say “I think 2011 was a very good year”.