In today’s feature article, Joshua Becker shares some of the ways minimalism changed his perspective. I agree with every one of these points. Read through them and see if you agree as well.
Archives for May 2016
Kitchens have a tendency to collect clutter. From extra dishes to single purpose gadgets, things that seemed like a necessity start piling up. Today’s article shares one person’s take on the blender. The blender is a kitchen staple to most (me included.)
Kristin Appenbrink shares her story of trading out her full size blender for an immersion blender. I Am Getting Rid of My Blender, and Here’s Why.
Sensationalized and slightly misleading headline aside, this is a worthwhile experiment. Kristen obviously used her blender for certain activities, such as making veggie smoothies and soups, and found a tool that worked better. In her case, an immersion blender combined with a mason jar.
Unlike most of the Internet, the comments on this post are worth reading. People shared their thoughts on using an immersion blender vs. a standard blender. From what I gathered, the immersion blender works well as long as you stick with soft items. You can blend fruits and vegetables, but not ice or nuts.
In my kitchen, we have a blender, but got rid of the food processor. We don’t use the blender regularly, but it’s nice to have when we do use it for smoothies, shakes, or frozen drinks. I even used it to chop pecans when making cookies. The blender didn’t work as good as a food processor for this task, but it was good enough.
What’s in your kitchen? Blender, immersion blender, food processor? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Photo by Kristin Appenbrink
After being a minimalist for a few years you tend to forget what life was like before decluttering and downsizing. I have a hard time remembering how cluttered our house was. I have a hard time remembering what it was like to live in the competition mindset, keeping up with the Joneses, and desiring the newest and most expensive everything.
Every once in a while I get a reminder of what that was like. Sometimes it will be a post from someone on Facebook, where you can plainly see them caught up in the frenzy of consumerism. Other times, it’s talking to a friend that constantly tries to one up you in every conversation. And occasionally you read an article that reminds you of how you used to think.
Today I’m sharing an article like this to remind you have far you’ve come. Or, if you still have some of these thoughts creeping in, to remind yourself of the direction you are heading.
Joyous Clutter: The Anti-Marie Kondo Manifesto as featured on Vogue.
I get the feeling the author hasn’t read either of Marie Kondo’s books. Unfortunately that’s the way of the media these days, writing about things without really understanding them. If you read the comments, you’ll see that a couple people caught on that the author likely didn’t read the book, and offered their insight on the errors in the article.
Everybody else that commented shared the author’s sentiment of buying lots of stuff, and keeping it all, even if that means having a “bursting armoire.”
Consider this a reminder of the world you left (or are leaving) behind.
Crystal Ellefsen brings up some interesting thoughts on clutter and finances in a post at The Art of Simple.
I think there’s a really significant connection between clutter and money that I have not seen mentioned in most discussions about discarding.
It’s common to mention the ease of access as a reason for not needing to keep something.
For example, “If I really need that again, I can just get one.” But, there’s an underlying assumption here that I think is worth pointing out. You have to have a certain level of financial stability in order to make that statement in the first place and believe that you could get one if you actually needed it.
I tend to agree with this. There is a financial component that seems to be discussed infrequently. Also, many minimalist bloggers are in a position where it wouldn’t be much of a burden to replace decluttered items should the need arise. There are some that aren’t but I think the majority of blogs I follow fit this description.
Crystal discusses some lingering fears from a time in her life when she would not have been able to easily replace things. You can read more about this here: The Unspoken Connection Between Clutter and Finances.
I want to add a couple more thoughts on this topic. As you declutter, and especially if that decluttering leads to downsizing, it is likely that you will transition to a place where financial burdens are lessened. In this case, decluttering can help speed your financial recovery.
My other thought is about why many minimalist bloggers don’t spend a lot of time discussing finances. First, because there are a great number of blogs that specialize in finances, and so it’s a case of focusing on your primary topic. In my case, my blogs focus primarily on minimalism and decluttering, so I mostly stick to those topics.
Second, minimalists in general tend to focus on intangibles rather than tangibles. In most cases we are eschewing tangibles, like excess stuff, huge houses, and fancy cars, in favor of intangibles, like relationships, activities, and adventures.
I encourage you to read Crystal’s blog post and spend a little time thinking about how your finances connect to your clutter. Also consider how fear plays a part in this connection.
I love the thought shared in today’s feature post. Faith Janes tells us Organized Excess is the Cousin of Clutter. I’d go so far as to say it’s an evil cousin.
Organization is a tricky thing. It can fool you into thinking you’re getting rid of clutter and getting rid of your mess and chaos. But often instead of getting rid of the mess, you’re just putting it in cute color coordinating bins or stacking it neatly so it looks more presentable.
That is a truth that most don’t realize until you find yourself organizing the same space over and over again, year after year. Organized clutter is evil clutter. Nobody wants a closet full of evil clutter, so start tossing that stuff instead of organizing it.
Friends, I don’t typically use my blog to solicit funds, but today I have a request. My friend and mentor, Annie Jean Brewer, was in an accident at work and suffered a traumatic brain injury that has left her disabled and with limited capacity to earn an income.
Here is the link to the GoFundMe page. https://www.gofundme.com/anniebrewer
When I first started on my path towards minimalism, I turned to the internet for inspiration. I found a few bloggers that focused on minimalism, and some really inspired me. One of those was Annie Jean Brewer at annienygma.com.
I was amazed at how little she was able to live on, typically spending less than $500 per month. That includes rent, utilities, food, etc. Reading this came at a time when I was making good money and not having much left to show for it. Annie inspired me to move ahead with our plans to sell our house and downsize to an apartment.
I shared Annie’s story with my wife and told her how minimalism allowed her to live off her income from self-published books. This meant Annie was able to stay home with her daughter, and enjoy all the moments before she transitioned into adulthood.
On top of all that, Annie was giving. She gave selflessly and did for others when she could.
When I think of minimalism, Annie is the image that comes to mind. She embodies the core concepts of minimalism and values what is truly important – people, relationships, and life. She does this on a very modest income, in a way that teaches us that income is not important, rather it’s how you life your life, and how you impact others that’s important.
Annie lives primarily off of income from her self-published books. Last year, she wanted some extra money to buy a laptop for her daughter. Computers are so important in society today, and Annie wanted to provide her daughter with one of the tools to succeed. With this goal in mind, and with the plan to save up a little extra for the extra expense that comes from heating her small home in winter, she took a job at a local fast food place.
She was progressing towards her goal, when tragedy struck. She suffered an accident at work that left her with a traumatic brain injury. She has been working with her doctors, but the outlook has not been as she hoped. It looks like she may have some permanent brain damage as a result of the accident. She hasn’t shared much of the accident itself, and I don’t have much info either, as I suspect there is some ongoing litigation.
Annie has shared her status a few times over the last few months, and she is doing the best she can, with a lot of help and support from her daughter. Her injuries leave her unable to write at her previous levels. It takes her a really long time to string words together, and this is devastating to an author and blogger.
Since she is unable to write, she cannot produce new content for her blog, and cannot write new books. A self-published author relies on new content to generate income. Unable to do this, she has been living off her declining book income since late last year.
She’s at a point now where income has decreased but litigation/disability has not kicked in. It’s a very tough in-between spot, and she needs our help. My goal in helping her is to fund the in-between, so she can focus on healing, recover, and therapy. Her minimal ways will stretch your donation for maximum impact. I wouldn’t ask you for a donation unless I thought the cause was worthy, and helping Annie and her daughter is one cause that I truly feel is worth supporting.
You can help in a few ways.
- Donate to her GoFundMe campaign. Any amount you give will have a huge impact on helping her get through this tough in-between time. https://www.gofundme.com/anniebrewer
- Buy one of her books. Annie prefers to earn income rather than getting it gifted to her. Donating to the GoFundMe campaign will have a more immediate impact since those funds are available to her immediately, but buying her books will support her mentally as well as financially.
- Share this blog post or share her GoFundMe campaign. The more people that see this, the more that can offer help.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for any help you can provide. I hate seeing my friend and mentor suffer and I am eternally grateful for any help you can provide.
If you want to get an idea of how Annie lives her life, check out her blog annienygma.com. Read through her posts and you will become inspired by her story.
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but cluttered parents usually have cluttered kids. I was certainly in that category, and our daughter started out on that path too. We didn’t discover the benefits of minimalism until she was three years old, and we didn’t start working with her on clutter until we tackled our own.
I have seen some good posts on kid clutter and some not so good posts on kid clutter. Today’s feature article is a fantastic post on kid clutter. Kids and Clutter Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly by Christy King of The Simple White Rabbit.
Isn’t that a great title? The approach that Kristy took with her son is the exact same approach we took with our daughter. I want to highlight a few of her key points to bring more attention to them.
Lead by Example
Realistically, if your kids see you buying and holding on to a bunch of stuff you don’t need, apparently valuing stuff more than relationships and experiences, they’re likely to do the same thing.
Yes, yes, yes. Decluttering, a clutter free home, and/or minimalism all begin with you. Declutter your own stuff. As you declutter, begin to realign your relationship with stuff. Start placing more value in relationships and experiences, and less on status symbols and stuff. Lead by example and your kids will notice.
Declutter WITH Your Kids
We also encouraged decluttering, even required him to get rid of some things. But we left him have a say in what in what he kept, so he saw decluttering as annoying or inconvenient, but not punitive.
Again – Yes, yes, yes. Go into the room with your kids and approach it as a learning experience. Think of the entire process. Are you being too forceful when you apply your newly discovered desire to declutter? Teach your kids.
Sit down in their room with them and help them. Do all the physical work of picking up items, and let them sit back and be decision maker. The decision making is the hard part. Empower your kids to make decisions and show them that you respect their decisions. By doing this you build rapport with your kids, teach them trust and respect, and help them gain confidence in their choices and abilities.
When you help them learn to make decluttering decisions, they will later apply those lessons on their own. Also, the last point in that quote is important – decluttering should never be punitive. Decluttering is a positive step, so make sure you frame it as such.
Talk to Your Kids
I’d also like to think it helped that he often overheard my husband and I talking about what we believe is important.
This absolutely does help. Take time when you are not decluttering to talk about values, relationships with stuff, and your new path to minimalism. Share what you are doing, not what you expect them to do. Talk to them in language that they understand, but don’t dumb it down.
As additional reinforcer, and perhaps even more important than talking to them, include them in the adult conversation. When mom and dad talk about clutter, values, and relationships, include the kids. Including kids in adult conversation reinforces their feeling of importance in family matters.
Play with Your Kids
Let them play with sticks, mud and cardboard boxes.
Show them you enjoy simple pleasures like playing fetch with the dog, watching the sunset, sitting on the porch, warming yourself by the fire, and playing board games with your family.
When we were moving, my daughter and her friends had a blast in our moving boxes. The were forts, playrooms, and private movie theaters. When we were fixing up the house, we had a left over piece of wood that became my daughter’s wizard staff. That simple, imagination imbued strip of wood fueled her playtime for days. It even made the move with us to our new apartment.
Kids spend a lot of time playing with each other, but that doesn’t replace the need for parental play time. Shower them with attention and do some simple and fun activities to teach them that relationships are more important that things. You will teach them the value of relationships by fostering the ones you have with your kids.
Your weekend challenge is to talk to your kids. Talk while driving somewhere or take a walk and chat while walking. Share the changes you have made and the improvements that resulted from those changes. Include them in some adult talk with mom and dad. Ask them for their thoughts.
For those that don’t have kids at home, you have a different challenge. You are going to talk to your inner child. Think about your own childhood and consider what habits you developed while growing up. Keep it positive, this isn’t an exercise in blame, it’s a reflection on how you got to where you are. Then consider what changes in habit, attitude, or feeling you need to make to realign with the person you want to become.
Feature photo is a drawing of my daughter in her box.
Mary of Mary Organizes shares 6 Daily Habits to Keep Your Home Clean.
- Super Tidy – daily 10 minute cleanup
- Keep up a weekly cleaning schedule
- Leave the kitchen clean after dinner (all hands on deck!)
- Utilize your inbox
- Encourage Kid’s chores
- Take the kitchen garbage out daily and others as needed.
These are all great tips. A daily 10 minute cleanup is super effective at catching the daily clutter. If you have trouble putting things away right after using them, this is the second best alternative.
I would like to offer an alternative to the inbox, as this method didn’t work for me (it sounds like it works well for Mary, so try both and use the one that works better for you.) The habit suggested is to create an inbox for all the papers and mail that come in, and then sit down and go through them once a week. The problem I had when doing this is the second part of that scenario – I would leave them in the inbox and forget about them.
What worked better for me is to process everything immediately when it comes in the door. If I don’t have time to process the mail, then I leave it in the mailbox until I have time. As soon as I bring the mail in, I sort out the junk, open and pay the bills, and review anything that needs reviewing. When I’m done, there should be nothing left. All bills are paid and all paper is in the trash or recycle bin. I found this was the only way I could keep the paper clutter from piling up.
Do you have any daily habits that help prevent clutter buildup? Share in our comment section below.
I don’t like discussing financial matters. I’d rather not even think about money to be honest with you, but money is a key part of the downsizing equation. I prefer to focus on the time aspect, because I find that to be more valuable. I have to admit though, money was the initial motivator for us to consider downsizing, so it’s an important topic to bring up.
Today I am sharing two articles. One is a commentary on the other. I almost hesitate to share the second as the tone is rather negative, but even so, it’s a decent summary of the first article and there are some good points made. The first article is very long, but it’s worth the time to read.
The first article is: Many Middle-Class Americans are Living Paycheck to Paycheck by Neal Gabler and posted at The Atlantic.
Neal starts out discussing a recent survey by the Fed.
The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.
I have been there as well, before we sold our first house and experimented with downsizing to an apartment.
So who is at fault? Some economists say that although banks may have been pushing credit, people nonetheless chose to run up debt; to save too little; to leave no cushion for emergencies, much less retirement. “If you want to have financial security,” says Brad Klontz, “it is 100 percent on you.”
Yep, unfortunately this is completely true. The good news is that you can make changes. It takes some frank discussions with your spouse or signifiant other, but you can make the changes needed to realign your life.
I don’t ask for or expect any sympathy. I am responsible for my quagmire—no one else. I didn’t get gulled into overextending myself by unscrupulous credit merchants. Basically, I screwed up, royally. I lived beyond my means, primarily because my means kept dwindling. I didn’t take the actions I should have taken, like selling my house and downsizing.
Downsizing is a great way to reboot your life. When we were in our first house, we followed the Dave Ramsey plan to get out of debt, and the one thing that struck me with him was that he never (or very rarely) recommended that people sell their houses. Sure, you might need to make other changes also, but downsizing your home can go further than almost every other change to reset your financial status. Even beyond the financial, it breaks you out of the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses cycle. (more on that in a minute.)
The fact is that emergencies always arise; they are an intrinsic part of our existence. Financial advisers suggest that we save at least 10 to 15 percent of our income for retirement and against such eventualities. But the primary reason many of us can’t save for a rainy day is that we live in an ongoing storm. Every day, it seems, there is some new, unanticipated expense—a stove that won’t light, a car that won’t start, a dog that limps, a faucet that leaks. And those are only the small things.
Another true statement that I have experienced and I’m sure you have too. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to sell the house and go back to renting. With renting, there are fewer emergencies as you remove the entire home-repair component.
The second article is: Parents are Bankrupting Themselves to Look Adequate, by Megan McArdle and posted on Bloomberg View. As I mentioned above, it has a rather negative tone, and I’m a bit bothered by the fact that Neal shares some incredibly difficult personal detail, and Megan analyzes it but shares nothing herself. I feel like if you are going to throw stones, or even discuss another’s personal plight, you should share yours as well. With that preamble, I want to share a few details from the article.
First, I think Megan misses the point a little, or at least doesn’t voice the point in this quote:
“I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses,” he (Neal) says, while recounting his decisions to live in Brooklyn, and then in the Hamptons, while sending his daughters to private school and expensive colleges. This is keeping up with the Joneses, of course.
I totally get Neal’s point that Megan seems to overlook. We never wanted to keep up with the Joneses either. Perhaps it would have been better worded if he said he never intended to keep up with the Joneses. We didn’t either, but it happened. It actually takes some conscious effort to avoid keeping up with the Joneses.
Also, Megan left out the latter half of Neal’s quote,
But, like many Americans, I wanted my children to keep up with the Joneses’ children, because I knew how easily my girls could be marginalized in a society where nearly all the rewards go to a small, well-educated elite. (All right, I wanted them to be winners.)
We want the best for our kids. As parents, we are constantly worried that we will scar our kids for life and they will resent us forever. I’m not sure if we do everything right, but we’re trying our best to instill in our daughter the self confidence to tread her own path. To know that stuff doesn’t equal happiness, and that it’s ok to experiment to find your path in life. These lessons will be more valuable than any you try to share while keeping up with the Joneses’ kids.
One final quote with a truth and another not-so-truth.
The truth is that your kids will care about how nice your car is, about whether they can be on travel hockey with their friends, about whether they can go to fancy schools like their friends. And if you were raised in a social class that regards any of these things as the basics of a decent life, you will feel horrible about denying them.
Your kids will not necessarily care how nice your car is. They certainly will if you care how nice your car is, but if you don’t value a nice car and instead value other things, share that with your kids. Talk to your kids. Share your reasons for owning an older or less popular car. People don’t talk to their kids enough. Kids “get it” more than you may realize. They have a great capacity for understanding. If you are leading by example, then share the reasons behind your choices.
They might, however, care about being on travel hockey with their friends. This is an activity that has value. It includes adventures and camaraderie, and the value of those intangibles far outweigh any amount of stuff you can buy. Another truth is that you will feel horrible about denying them. While downsizing from house to apartment we had a constant fear that our daughter would hate it. But, she didn’t. And without even realizing it, she learned some valuable lessons along our journey towards minimalism.
After reading through these articles, do some introspective exploring. Does any of this apply to you and your current situation? You don’t have to give up and accept this, you can make changes right now to reset your life path. Think about your options, including the ones that are frowned upon by the Joneses, like downsizing, simple living, and minimalism.
Blog posts by Dominique Joly of My Journey to Simplicity have really been resonating with me lately. Perhaps we are on the same wavelength at various points on our minimalist paths. When you find a blog that resonates with you, I highly recommend you subscribe, even if it means more email in your inbox. Or you can subscribe to the newsfeed, Feedly.com is my favorite feed reader at the moment.
Dominique took a trip to New York recently. She packed light for the trip, fitting everything she needed in a carry-on bag. After the trip, she decided to try an experiment in which she continued using only the same clothes she packed for her trip. Experimenting like this is a perfect way to challenge your ideas of normal and test your boundaries.
She shared the process in a series of three posts.
I’m a big fan of experiments to test your boundaries and your ideas of normal. If you’ve conducted any of your own experiments, we’d love to hear about them. Please share in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.