Experiment in Mindfulness

A few months ago I read an article about a woman who bought nothing new for an entire year. At first I read it and thought “How does one not buy anything for an entire year?” but after re-reading the article I realized I had missed the concept of NEW.

I begun thinking about my commitments to reducing my carbon footprint, getting (and keeping) my credit score above 700, and my overall distain for dusting. I wondered how I would do on this type of journey. So, I decided to try it. Not only that, but I challenged a co-worker, Karol, to join me in a 30-day challenge to buying nothing new.

After explaining the concept and my own personal journey with reducing overhead, Karol thought it would be fun. We got to work developing some rules and agreed to confess our transgressions honestly and openly, without judgment, on a weekly basis. We also decided to exclude some items from the challenge:

  • Food and personal hygiene items
  • Gifts for others
  • Handmade items from local artists and crafters (*This rule was added mid-challenge during true confessions)

We set our mind to the challenge and moved through our month confessing sins and celebrating small victories each Monday morning.. At the end of the month we discussed the challenge. Overall, we both agreed it was a good lesson in mindful consumerism. Karol talked of how she really thought twice before buying something and if she really needed it, she hit thrift stores first. I found myself doing the same and even found some pretty sweet, gently used items that were a quarter of the price of buying a brand new item. I didn’t feel like I had suffered at all. In fact, after looking at month-end finances, it appears that a long-term commitment to this as a lifestyle would benefit me tremendously.

What did I learn during this challenge? Mindfulness for sure. I seriously asked myself when thinking “I need (fill in the blank)” if I could get that used or if I really needed it all. If I did need it, and it had to be new, I asked myself if there was a locally-owned store I could get it before hitting the big-box chain. When searching for a new book on parenting, I found BlueFrog books – a cute local bookstore – instead of going to Barnes & Noble.

I also learned about my community. I recently moved and this activity required me to find new places to buy used items. My favorites? Another great little bookstore called Unicorn One which primarily sells used books. For clothing, I found Where the Wild Things Grow right next to La Boutique, two Salvation Army thrift stores, and one Goodwill (which also led to wwwShopGoodwill.com!). Since I wasn’t shopping as much, we discovered a cool place to feed ducks, a nature center, and a great indoor play area for the kiddo.

But most serious of all the lessons learned: I still struggle with turning to retail therapy as a temporary fix to loneliness, self-doubt, and overall boredom. This, I’m sure, is a carry over from my “more money than brains” first marriage sprinkled with a bit of parental influence. Issues that certainly make therapists froth at the mouth when they see me coming, I’m sure.

So what did I buy new? Seriously, only three items – two of which were one the exclusion list: A potty chair for the wildling, a hand towel to hang on my stove to dry my hands (which was later met with grace from my challenge colleague who agreed  handmade items from Farmer’s Markets were excluded from the challenge because purchasing such items benefit local artists) and a new book. So, essentially, I made it through the entire month buying only one item she refused to grant grace to (the book). She (and I, eventually) agreed if searched for the book online I most likely could have found it used, therefore, my failure wasn’t really the purchase. My true failure was the inability to delay the desire for the item. (Ouch, right???)

Who lost? We called it even with my book and her new leggings. We both believed we were winners because of all we learned. (I know – everyone gets a trophy, right??)

I had so many eye-opening Ah-Ha moments this month, I plan to continue through the month of November, too. However, Karol challenged me to another November contest – To reduce dining out. I’m not a huge offender of this, but she apparently struggles with ‘meal organization’ which then leads to budgeting challenges so I jumped on board. I’ll write about some items in the weeks to come.

What about you? Do you struggle with delaying gratification? Do you shop to fight boredom or sadness? Do you buy what you don’t really need just because you can? Weigh in here and until next time – share your favorite easy packed lunch ideas.

Mindfulness and Mothering

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This week was challenging as we continued to pack up our belongings in anticipation for the big move. The one thing I have learned through this is that it doesn’t matter how present I try to be or how uncluttered I attempt to keep my life, being both mindful and minimalist takes effort. In fact, I’m certain I’ve included items in these boxes I don’t really need or love – and I know I’ve been super stressed over living in a ‘mess’ for what seems now like weeks.

I’m sure once the habits are ingrained, it becomes simpler. But, as with any new endeavor, it takes time to break old habits and create new ones. Because I will no longer work from home in my new position, I’ve been ‘practicing’ going to bed earlier and getting up at 7 am. Soon, I’ll get up at 6:45, then 6:30 – until I’ve made it part of my life to rise at 6 am. This will give me ample time to have a morning quiet time with a cup of coffee, drive to the office and start work on time. I’m not really a morning person, but I am a “I like my quiet time” person, which is why I’m developing this new habit.

Another interesting thing that has become more apparent this week is the ability to be more present. As most of the distractions are packed away, our needs have been few and our wants almost non-existent, I find I’m listening more.

As an example: my son has recently developed this ‘noise’ he makes when he’s tired. I say he recently developed it. This (rather annoying) sound has most likely been his M.O. for some time now – although I must have been too busy to notice. If he doesn’t take an afternoon nap, by 6:30 pm he starts getting cranky and by 7 pm starts making this whiny “mmmmm”  sound. The first night I noticed it, I was irritated. What an annoying sound. “Stop making that noise, please.” I asked. When he didn’t, I threatened to make him a drink and put him to bed. He grabbed his lovey and motioned toward the microwave. (Yes, he still takes a nightly bottle. And yes, I microwave it. Don’t. Judge. Me.) True to my word, off to bed I ‘forced’ him to go….pleased that he fell asleep shortly thereafter.

The next night, I had a visitor. My son started in on that noise about 7:30 pm (I think he’s quit the ‘afternoon nap’ thing altogether). Again, I was annoyed by the sound (it truly is annoying. Trust me.) but I asked my friend to wait while I fixed him a bottle and put him to bed. Again, no arguments over bedtime, no jumping in the bed….just him and his lovey – sound asleep in about ten minutes.

Third night in a row. “MMMMM”. This time I breathed in and out. I looked at the clock. 6:45 pm. No nap and he had gotten up at 7:00 am. I said, “Are you sleepy, honey?” He grabbed his lovey and I began the ritual: bottle, book, bed. No annoyance. No keeping him up until his actual ‘bedtime’. Just an open heart, a clear mind, and an awareness of his needs.

I’ve been preoccupied; too busy for so many nights. People will often tell you what they want you to know, but most often not in words. Being present is hard – I get this. I’m sure it will take more practice. I’m sure I’ll miss the mark when I have a deadline at work or feel a bit stressed over other areas in my life. But I truly hope this lesson sticks because my son has been a lot more sweet and less cranky now that he realizes I’m starting to understand him. And I’ve had a bit more time to relax at night, too, since he’s been going to bed earlier.

What ways have you been practicing mindfulness lately? Have you missed something that someone you love is ‘telling you’ simply because you’ve been distracted?

Keeping Life Simple

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This weekend marks what I’ve come to call my time here in Missouri as “one of my last weekends to pack”. I started packing about a month ago when we first got a contract on the house. Some would consider that very organized and motivated, but I find the sooner I start packing, the more likely I am to pack items I really should discard. Now that I’m down to the wire, I’m being a bit more selective. I am half-tempted to go through my previously packed boxes just to see if I packed anything I really don’t need or something that truly doesn’t help me through the transition (more on this in a few….).

Keeping it simple, for me, in these last few weeks includes asking myself two questions as I pack:

  1. Does it spark joy? (If yes, I keep it. If no, I ask myself…)
  2. Can it easily be replaced later if missed? (If yes, I toss it into the Goodwill box. If no, I pack it. After all, Goodwill exists in my second-life.)

Now, some would argue that saying “No” to question #1 would immediately dictate a quick trip to the nearest non-profit thrift store, But, even after reading the great little book entitled “The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, not all items (for me, at least) fall into the black/white Does-It-Spark-Joy? (Yes/no) arena. Some things –  like batteries, scissors, glue, a new pack of construction paper, etc – fall into the “Um-Not-Necessarily-Joy-But-I-Don’t-Want-To-Have-To-Replace-It-Right-Away” grey area. I do have my limits, though. It has to be something I use nearly every day (not some Paul Mitchell hair gel I bought a year ago and never used). Most of these items are used to entertain my son – so I guess, if narrowed down – yes, these items do spark joy.

So, back to that first point I promised to get to in paragraph one. Some items spark joy…but also represent old patterns or mindsets I need to release in order to transition easily into the future (To heal? *Shrug*. Some might say.) For example, I work for a non-profit and for nearly a year I’ve traveled all over the country to various offices in different states. In each location I often received a t-shirt as a parting gift. (Fifteen t-shirts in all. Hardly a minimalist wardrobe). While each of those shirts spark joy because I met some really incredible, hard-working folks…I need to part with those shirts in order to move on. I can’t be hanging out in a shirt that represents the past (at times, an irritating and hurtful past.)

Additionally, I have a beautiful set of white dishware that I really like. These dishes are functional, practical, and I absolutely value them. But, I also bought them during a tremulous period in my life: I had separated from my first husband and needed dishes in my new apartment. I wanted out of the ‘different dishware for every holiday’ lifestyle. But now, I look at them sometimes and actually think “I bought those when my (first) marriage failed.” Instead of representing a time of independence and personal growth, I easily revert back to the feeling of failure. Time for those dishes, and their failure-ridden energy, to find a new home. Which means the opportunity to find new dishes that mesh with my new lifestyle is presented! I really like THESE except I don’t need or want 12 of them.  Match those plates with these bowls and I believe I’ve married fashion and function splendidly without straying off course.

The hardest items to donate, sell, or toss are the items I’ve purchased for my son. I did finally reconcile getting rid of his steel, red Radio Flyer Dual Deck tricycle, rationalizing in my mind that 1) he doesn’t seem to like it so, apparently, it doesn’t bring him joy and 2) by the time summer rolls around again, he’ll be too big for it. I, however, will not part with his steel red Radio Flyer wagon, which he received as a gift on his first birthday from a neighbor. I can’t think about parting with it without tearing up. Besides, I load it up and take it (and my son) to the farmer’s market. It serves double duty…and, sniff sniff…some would say it brings both of us joy. So, we’ll keep it, thank you very much.

The bottom line is that if this stuff I’m packing doesn’t fit in a 5 X 12 trailer hitched to a Saturn Vue filled to the brim, then it most likely can’t make the trip unless I want to pay out the wah-zoo for more moving space from U-Haul (which I do not).

If you have any tips for moving out of state, I’m up for any ideas. I consider myself a master at parting ways with things that have lost their spark, but to be frank, I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment. New job, new home, new state, new driver’s license. It’s all a bit much for me.

So, what say you? Anyone? Anyone?

Facing Mindfulness Head On

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I’ve been a bit vague in some posts recently but honestly, I’ve mostly just been quite absent. I admit it, I know I’ve been distant – in person and in the blog-o-sphere. Maybe I’ve been so distant you’ve forgotten about me altogether. Maybe you thought I have quit the blogging business. Maybe you just didn’t care at all 🙂

To be completely transparent – I gotta tell ya, dear readers, that when life gets overwhelming for me, I may seem to face it all (on the surface) the best way I can, but internally, I retreat. I mean, I seriously R E T R E A T. So much so that if I could have swung it financially, I probably would have just put on my pajamas and stayed in bed for the last few months. However, I gotta make a living and the kid has to eat. So, I’ve been facing every day head on knowing that I could at least appear resilient on the surface. Fake it ’til you make it, I say.

Sometimes (and I really do believe this!!!) you have to face the fire in order to come out stronger. That’s biblical, at best (Isaiah 48:10 for those of you checking my math), and simply common sense, at worst.

So here I am. Stronger? Not so sure. Better? Absolutely.

Better in that I’ve made some decisions to make some radical changes.

I’m changing jobs. I’m changing homes. I’m changing the actual physical state (as in United States) in which I live. I’m changing the actual mental and emotional state in which I live (as in “proactive” versus “reactive”). And…I’m changing how I handle this creepy online diary in the future.

The first change is the name of this blog and what its future objectives are going to look like for you. “Show Me Simplicity” worked when I began blogging for two reasons: I reside in Missouri (the Sho-Me State!) and I was hoping to find simplicity by looking to others for guidance; hoping they would show me the way. (Thank you, Josh, Adam, Crank Tank Studios,  Gretchen, and many, many others.)

But, at the end of the month I will no longer live in Missouri. And, well, through my journey others have certainly shown me the way to rational minimalism…but I’ve learned the decision to live a simplified life, for me, is an every day, conscious decision. In other words, simplicity and minimalism don’t come naturally to me. In fact, it takes mindfulness and determination every moment of every day to not keep something that no longer brings me joy or to buy something just to make myself feel better. The minute I go on auto-pilot is the very minute I veer off-course.

And so…new job, new home, new state of residence…new name: Mindfully Minimalist. I look forward to sharing the next phase of my life with you and others.

Five Lessons of Grief

On this day ten years ago, my family and I stood by my only sibling’s bedside in the ICU and removed all instruments prolonging his life. He was 27 years old and this episode, to date, was the most traumatic incident I have ever experienced.

For years I viewed my brother’s death as a very horrible experience. While I’d still much rather have him here with us, somewhere along the journey, I began to ask myself what I had learned from this tragic episode. I truly believe we all must travel a path marked by both joyful and unpleasant life experiences in order to grow. Right around the six year mark I realized that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to bring him back and instead, I began to ponder how this experience was changing me. I wrote about that here, and now I’ve learned – through the death of a beloved cousin, two uncles, and my father – that grief is an emotion given to us to teach us to view life differently.

  • Grief teaches us that life is unpredictable. Some things can be put off…going to the grocery store, or taking a weekend trip. But life can happen when we least expect it so it is important to “get your affairs in order”. That means go ahead a purchase that life insurance policy, set aside time to discuss with your loved ones how you would like to be memorialized or buried. Essentially – what do you want your loved ones to do with you if you unexpectantly exit the world? This conversation, while morbid, really will give your family a sense of comfort. The fewer decisions they have to make when you aren’t there to assist will lessen the stress.
  • Grief teaches us to appreciate more. I could sit around all day feeling angry or sad that I don’t have a brother, or a father, or that I’ll be the one who has to make all the decisions when my mother passes away. Or…I can greet my son each morning with gratefulness, spend time with my husband, and share coffee with some really great friends. I guarantee my brother isn’t sitting ‘up there’ complaining that I’m not mopping around ten years later because he’s not here on Earth. To think he is, and that somehow not feeling super sad all day long means I miss him less, is nothing less than ridiculous.
  • Grief reinforces life is short. As cliché as it is…whether it is 24 hours or 24 years…it goes by quickly. I swear just yesterday I gave birth to my son. In reality…he turns three in a few months. It seems like a few years ago I thought I’d never recover after the death of my brother. Today I realize that ten years have passed. I’ve gotten divorced, remarried, given birth, buried my father, earned two graduate degrees, developed a successful career, purchased a home, and watched my step-children grow from awkward teenagers into beautiful young adults with plans to serve our country, go on to college and become parents. Life continues after the death of a loved one. You can choose to continue with it and be grateful or you can choose to stop and wait to die yourself. Either way, you’ll get what you desire.
  • Grief emphasizes the importance of attentiveness and mindfulness. Do you realize that the American culture is the only one that uses the catch-phrase “killing time”? Grief teaches us that wasting time – or killing it – is a terrible use of a valuable resource. Be attentive and mindful at all times. You’ll be able to offer a smile to that stressed out young mom in Target. You’ll notice the difference in cries from your child. Most importantly, you’ll realize that God doesn’t waste time…who are you to get that privilege? Something miraculous is happening at every moment of everyday. If you aren’t too busy swimming in self-pity, you might just realize that each day you are on the planet is a gift not to be squandered.
  • Grief reminds us to honor oneself. The first five or six years after his death, I was pretty self-destructive each May 11th. Later I began scheduling myself on business trips during that week. In fact, this year is the first year I haven’t been traveling during the ‘week of my brother’s death’. Whether I was drinking or working, I realized I was just postponing the grief and hoping it would just ‘go away’. This year, I’m tired. I’m not as busy and I’m more mindful, and I realize I’m tired. Grief settled in a few days ago and I really just want to been alone and sleep. So, I plan to honor that. I will rest. I will reflect. I will not apologize for wanting an hour or two alone. I will not apologize for not ‘celebrating the 10th anniversary’ with a balloon release. I will thank Grief for teaching me to love more, plan more, and simply ‘be’ more.

Five Ways To Embrace Change

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As you may have figured out from recent posts, my family has made a conscious decision to challenge the idea that we must conform to some ideal “American Dream”; and therefore, we’ve faced more than a few opportunities to embrace change in the last few months. (Did you like how I phrased that? Very positive, huh?)

In reality, if you break it down like a basic math equation, change is what you make it. Most do not really like change. In fact, many do not change until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of changing. I don’t know about my husband, but I know this is when I arrived at my Ah-Ha moment. The bills started coming very close to equaling the amount of income each month and finally I just said “Why? This is ridiculous.” And finally, I was ready. Ready to – and for – change. Ready to sell everything – including the house – so that I’d have some freedom with my finances. Freedom to go on a Disney vacation with the kiddo. Did you know that 24 months without our cable package affords us the chance to go on a real vacation??? On top of that…we walk more, we play more, we relax in more creative ways – like writing songs and knitting scarves – instead of flipping through a gazillion of useless channels each night.

“But change is hard!”, you say. (I hear your whiny voice in my head. Oh..wait. That was my whiny voice. Sorry.) Yes. I agree. Change is hard. Trust me, I’m not immune to this thought. But you know what? Change is only hard if you stop thinking of ways to make it not hard. Change can be exciting. It can be a ‘growth opportunity’. It can be, actually, very very fun. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that change is more exciting and more fun when one gets the opportunity to decide to change. Admittingly, when change is thrust upon us, we clench up. Our amygdala releases a ton of cortisol which then rushes to our neo-cortex and, well, we act like idiots. So, unless you enjoy acting like an idiot, here are some ways I’ve learned to embrace change. (I’ve behaved like an idiot on more than one occasion.)

1) Read Chris Gillebeau’s book “The Art of Non-Conformity” . If you are trying to save some dough, you can most likely get a copy at the library or at a used book store. There are at least four copies at my favorite used book store at all times. I guess people read it, decide it’s too difficult to become a non-conformist, and sell their copy. (As did I a few years back. Then my cousin sent me a copy about three months ago and I decided to keep this one.) This book simply highlights how we’ve all been fed a lie about how we ‘should’ live our lives. Otherwise known as The Good Ol’ American Dream (the 1950’s version, not the Declaration of Independence version.) Chris does a great job at pointing out that change is difficult, but you have to power through the fear and do it anyway. It’s a good read, although, I suspect anyone my age and older will think “What a slacker” as I did the first few times I read it. But wait for it: If you truly want to live by your own rules…if you really are ready to make that change…it doesn’t matter what age you are, it will finally click.

2) Feel the fear and do it anyway.  Okay, so fear can be a good thing…such as when the tornado sirens are going off or you’ve just been warned a massive hurricane is on its way. Fear, if framed correctly, can inspire action. And that action can be negative or it can be positive. A negative reaction to fear is usually present in resistance or even paralysis. A positive reaction to fear closely resembles that ‘excited-scared’ feeling and usually is present when you are about to embark on something ‘new’ for you. Be excited-scared, but get up and act anyway. This is “inspired action”.

3) Stay silent about your plans. I have mixed feelings about the concept of sharing goals with others. Some believe this sharing can hold you accountable. Maybe if trying to lose weight, or training for a marathon. But, I have learned that when my goals challenge the status-quo, all kinds of people come up with all kinds of reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t. So, I say “Stay Quiet” and let those people live their lives while you live yours. (Here’s a great TED Talk to watch)

4) Find your village. Aligning with like-minded folks whom have been in the same situation you are in can really help you embrace change. I started seeking out people online who thought the same way I was leaning. Bloggers like Josh Becker, and Tsh Oxenreider, and Adam Baker. Documentaries like “I’m Fine, Thanks!” and “Too Big To Fail”. If your friends are buying bigger houses every five years, and new cars every two, and you desire a debt-free life, it’s okay to have a drink with them or attend the annual BBQ at Bob’s house, but…go back to point #3….and remember to listen to those ‘really’ in your village. Who knows, you might just inspire them by your actions more than your words.

5) Use the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” sparingly. Here’s the deal: Thoughts create. Thoughts create action, things, reality, etc. So, if you believe in that sort of thing, then everything happens because you created it in your mind first. I usually reserve “Everything happens for a reason” when I have really considered whether or not I was in control of either preventing or creating what has happened. I’m sure, on some esoteric level, I had a hand in it at some point along the way, but at times, it really isn’t obvious to me at what point my thoughts came into play…so then I say “Everything happens for a reason” and I go back to point #2.

This, by all means, is not an exhaustive list on how to embrace change. And, I’m certainly no expert, although I wish I was. But, as I said, these are just my top five most productive ways I’ve found to embrace change. I hope they help you.

Sell the crap. Live a life.

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One of the biggest deals at the moment is that we have begun selling most of our things. Years ago I was inspired by Adam Baker, who sold everything he owned in order to backpack with his family, but never really took it that far. But one day my husband and I were just discussing our ‘future life’ and suddenly, it all just resonated with me.That night I went back and re-watched the short documentary, I’m Fine, Thanks! (on Hulu Plus if you want to watch it!)

And then, just when someone in the film said “I climbed the corporate ladder only to learn it was leaning against the wrong wall”, I wept. I was finally ready.

My husband gave me one rule: If you don’t love it or if you don’t use it, it goes. It’s funny that HE’S the one telling me this since I have been ‘the minimalist’ for 4 years (Okay. I admit. I have truly sucked at being a minimalist. There. I said it out loud.) I’m sure there will be a lot more deciding on what comes or goes in the near future since the house was listed on the market just two days ago and we’ve already had two showings. That usually means we are on the right path.

But, where will you go? What kind of house will you buy? Why are you selling everything?!? People have asked.  And for once, I have no answers. No real answers, anyway. Some possible answers. We’ll rent. A house. No, a condo. Maybe just a small apartment until there is no more debt. In Arkansas. In Tennessee.  No, probably Wisconsin. Oh well. There is still so much up in the air (a very UNCOMFORTABLE PLACE TO BE, I might add!) which I will journal about as we move through this life-changing process.

Overall, we’ve decided some of our decisions are because:

1) We want a life of experiences, not stuff. This article pretty much sums it up but to give you some brief insight: We had our son when we were entering our forties. I want him to look back on his life and remember that great trip to Sequoia National Park or Canada. I want him to take music lessons and skating lessons…and any lesson he wants to take to learn a new skill. (As do I! I want to learn so much!) I don’t want his (or my own!) butt planted in front of a 60” television watching 200 channels his entire life.

2) We want to say “YES” more often. Yes, let’s go to the park! Yes, let’s go swimming. Yes, let’s drive to the ocean. Yes, let’s live a life of PASSION! Instead of a life full of “Wish we had the money to do that” or “Can’t today. Gotta clean all this stuff I no longer love.”

3) We want to be creative. It’s hard to be creative when you feel trapped. I truly believe that. Look at the proof: Just making the DECISION to live a more simple life led to me opening up WordPress again – after nearly 2 years! Simplicity frees the mind and opens it to creativity. I mean, I could go places and see things if I wanted NOW…but between cleaning out the garage, folding baskets of clothes, and sorting through piles of papers….we don’t have time (or energy. Remember: we’re middle-aged 🙂 ) I really enjoy knitting, but when you feel trapped by the things you own…knitting for the afternoon seems like a waste of valuable time. But, in fact, the opposite is actually true. What truly is a waste of valuable time is sorting through unused items (again!) while my son sits alone trying to entertain himself. We both want to spend time and energy fostering our right-side of the brain (Lord knows it needs it! I’ve used the left side of my brain for so long I forgot I even had another side.)

As for where we will live? I still don’t have a clue. But for some reason, I feel at peace with this. We’ve even looked at Winnebago’s online. I’m not so sure about that idea….but I’m not ruling anything out at this point.  Besides, there are many steps before living in a converted school bus would even become an option.

Besides, I can’t trust the process if I rush the process, you know? So, Bird By Bird is how we choose to move down this path.

And so, for today, I just have to get rid of a few items or stack them in the corner for a yard sale. Getting rid of these items is a day-by-day adventure (see our page called Minimalist Game – so far I’ve let 36 items go. And this doesn’t even include the crap I’ve simply thrown away!) Thanks for hanging out with us!

Change in the Heartland

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So, it has been awhile, has it not?  I have no real excuse other than I’ve strayed from my simple life. I took on too much responsibility, took in too many items because the blank spaces needed to be filled, and all that left me shaking my head in dismay. “Freedom,” my soul whispered. “Find your freedom.”

Then, out of the blue, my husband begins to talk about change. Consider selling everything. Do something totally radical. Why? I asked. “Because we can.” he said.

Because we can. Because we can. Because we can. Because we can!

You know, I’ve been in the business field for a long time. Two graduate degrees and management theories galore to prove it. I know a business can succeed if they base decisions on values; if they have a mission / vision statement. Why can’t people have those to?

We got to work sorting out the values we hold dear: Simplicity, Knowledge, Experiences, Financial Freedom, Creative (Artistic) Expression. We began thinking about the most important ‘job’ we have: To raise our son.

The problem isn’t that we didn’t know these things. The problem is that we have allowed other ‘stuff’ to creep into our life preventing us from focusing on our values and truly giving our son a life for which he will look back and, hopefully, be grateful.

So, join me again, on a journey. A journey to create the life we’ve wanted. A journey to enable us to place a higher priority on those values we cherish and to spend time with the one we hold dear.

Stay tuned for some radical, epic activity.

Spring Clean Your Book Collection

I’m a reader. I can’t help it. I usually have four to six books on my nightstand with active dog-eared pages because YES – I am reading all of them. But, with my love of the written word comes some really challenging storage space issues.

When I started on the road to living life as a rational minimalist, I found the first area I needed to tackle was my book collection. If you, like me, find this one area of clutter (or shall we simply call it ‘overabundance’??) an area with which you’d like to start discarding items, I’m here to share with you my most creative ways of managing my book collection:

I donated a lot to my local library. When I first tackled the collection (nearly 300 books…) I just donated everything I decided to let go to my local library. That way, if I really, really, really want to go back and re-read a book (I rarely do this, by the way) I can simply go check it out. Six years later…I’ve never looked back.

Store up, under or in something else. A lot of people buy bookcases to store their book collections. That makes sense on an elementary level, right? But we are not elementary anymore! We are clutter-conquerors. We don’t keep what we don’t need! We do not have furniture that requires dusting unless it is necessary. So, for the books with which I simply can not part, I place them up on wall shelves and use them as decor (This also cuts down on, um, decor).  I also use books under items to elevate lamps, place picture frames on or simply create a nice little arrangement of staggered candles.

Now, I know you’ll never part with all your books. (I’m odd, not crazy). And, I also know there are some you don’t want on display. (I am fascinated with serial killers and I collect books about some of the most infamous weirdos. LOL. I don’t want the neighbors calling the feds after seeing my books about Ted Bundy.) So, for those books – I store them under the bed in clear plastic bins (nicely labeled with my label gun, of course. Gosh.). What’s the point of having all that space under there anyway if you can’t hide stuff?

And my FAVORITE all time way to clear out my books is…

I have a library in my yard! I participate in a Little Free Library program which lets me share my books with others, but yet, keep them close to home – at least for a short while. There are about 6 in my city and it is a really fun way to share books with others. If my books start to get a bit ‘stale’ – I just switch them out with another LFL close by me. If you are one of those grouchy types and mumble “Get off my lawn” a lot, well, then maybe you can just share your books with someone else in your city who has taken the plunge and placed a nice little library in their neighborhood.

library

Simplicity in Cast Iron

castironskillet

Last winter my mother-in-law gave me a cast iron skillet. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure if this was a blessing or a curse. I had just gotten rid of about six skillets a month before, and plus, I was one of these “non-stick” skillet kind of gals. It wasn’t that I wasn’t thankful…I just had no idea what I’d do with this skillet or if I even needed it. After all, how many skillets does a family of two & 1/2 really use in a week? (Um, in my house…not many.)

Turns out, you only need one skillet. This one. This cast iron skillet is the bomb! I love it. And here is why: It makes my life more simple.

One skillet scrambles an egg, sears meat, and pan-fries all the things a skillet is supposed to scramble, sear and fry. But…I also bake in this skillet. Yep. Cornbread. Biscuits. Cake. You can bake yummy goodness in the cast iron skillet at any temperature. In fact, the reason I really love this skillet is because its multi-functionality allowed me to get rid of two baking dishes.

There are also many health benefits of cooking with cast iron.

As luck would have it, my addiction to those clever non-stick skillets has subjected my family to toxic fumes and substances. Aluminum pans aren’t all that great for you, either. Obviously the cast iron doesn’t have those nasty substances.

Frankly, I don’t really seem to have much trouble with things sticking to this skillet. Why? Believe it or not…It is nonstick. Surprisingly, a preheated cast iron skillet rivals the qualities of non-stick cookware, as long as it is properly seasoned and cared for.

In my seventh month of pregnancy I was diagnosed with mild anemia. It was my mother who said I should really embrace that skillet, and when I went back for my annual exam, no more anemia. The iron in the skillet could have been responsible – because, well, I’m not really much on eating stuff with iron in it.

Lastly, in an emergency (such as a freakish snow storm that drops 8 inches over night in southern Missouri), cast iron cookware can be used over any heat source. In fact, most of the food and survival tips on my “Be Prepared” Pinterest board require nothing more than a cast iron skillet and some foil. (Of course, I hope someone here knows how to start a fire, because I was absent that morning in Girl Scouts.)

So, in summary, thank you very much, Mother-In-Law. I love this skillet and all it has added (and subtracted) from my life. It really is the simplest item in my kitchen. And, dear reader, if you still aren’t convinced, check out these ten reasons to own a cast iron skillet.