Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s a boy!

I can declare with happiness we met our goal. We have stayed in our “starter home” and cleared out enough stuff to make room for another baby. To make the deal sweeter, we actually have another baby!

Big guy

Our son arrived in July, a little early but a healthy size at 8 pounds, 9 ounces. I am not completely settled on a blog name for him, so let’s call him Bubs for now. Rie likes being a big sister. We are finally starting to see the light of a new family routine and rhythm taking shape.

Big sister

Before Bubs arrived I finished my camisole. Pics are coming, but I hope to shed some baby weight first. 🙂

Here’s to a great autumn!

A Dreaded Job – Done!

At some point during my journey I started throwing all pens, post-its, erasers, pencils, Sharpies and such into a shoebox. I was saving it for later…and later.

too many to use.

too many to use.

We don’t use red pens. They were the first to go. Then I randomly decided I didn’t want any pens with caps. Those went next. A bunch of the dry-erase markers can go to my office. As quickly as I could I pared down the stacks.

Better!

Better!

The blue bins were to separate the pens/pencils into kitchen and desk storage.  These are the only two places in the house where we ever go looking for pens, so that part was easy.  I held onto a ton of mechanical pencils for D, but I never use them.  Later on I’ll ask him how many he wants.

OK, this last part sounds silly, but I did hold back some pens and pencils to throw into the office supplies shoebox.  Mostly because I really don’t want to have to buy another Sharpie or pen if I can avoid it.  I know, silly, but there you go.  I suppose that box is my next dreaded job, but for now I’m pretty happy with myself.

One for the desk, one for the kitchen.

One for the desk, one for the kitchen.

First World Problem

During my quasi-public pursuit for simplicity I have been criticized for focusing too much on first world problems. Indeed, the need to simplify implies starting with abundance: relative wealth, excessive possessions, hours of idleness saturated with mindless entertainment – the list goes on and on. Certainly I have faced my share of first world problems. However, I take a different point of view of their severity.

Jesus’ assertion that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God belies the light-hearted undertone in the phrase “first world problem” (see Luke 18:18-25). Long before Jesus’ time, a wise man gave us many poetic verses to describe the woes of abundance. He asserts in Ecclesiastes 4:4 that only “envy of our neighbor” can motivate us to labor (and acquire) as much as we do. In other words, as a species, we have been keeping up with the Joneses since ancient times, and no one has ever found that it worked to secure happiness or anything meaningful.

The wise man elaborates on the silliness of spending one’s life consumed by labor and acquiring when he essentially points out “you can’t take it with you” in Ecclesiastes 4:14 and 16. Really, the entire chapter is great. Fellow aspiring minimalists should check it out.

As the wise man and Jesus himself point out, the anecdote to many first world problems is to choose a simpler way of living. People are still drawn to simplicity, now also popularly called minimalism, when they realize to what extent clutter and commitments obstruct their ability to focus on what is truly important.

This life will not last. Furthermore, our precious clutter may not even last an entire lifetime. There has to be something more. Something eternal. As the clutter leaves, one begins to see the bigger picture. As time frees up, one finds more of everything that matters.

Paul says it well at the conclusion of his first letter to Timothy:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming of age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (I Timothy 6:17-19)

Contemplating the seriousness of first world problems, or the ironically critical issues associated with wealth, has been the catalyst for many journeys toward simple living, including my own. As I write this, I am waiting for the results of a job search that may test my ability to practice what I preach. I would be lying to say I’m not a little scared, but I hear leaps of faith are rarely done without some anxiety. Of course, I’ll keep you “posted”. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

The Urge to Splurge: Contingency Plan

This post explores motivators to shop (in no particular order). The goal is to identify the root cause of the urge to splurge and then find an alternative method meet the need presented. As for me, I have made a lot of progress in the last year or so to re-train myself to respond to the situations listed below. There is still progress to be made. In other words, this takes time, but it can be done.

When you find yourself shopping or browsing the Internet for deals, ask yourself what need you are truly trying to meet. You probably already have the proper resources available to you without having to make a purchase.

 

1. Boredom

There are seven rooms at home that could use a cleaning, but I’m feeling antsy and need to get out of the house or office. The thing I have come to realize is that when shopping out of boredom I am usually looking for a personal connection. The best thing to do is to make a phone call or visit a friend and connect with someone who actually cares.

It is not necessarily an easy change to make. I am still trying to re-train myself to not look at shopping as a way to feel connected with the community or to feel special. On the bright side, my mom and I have been talking a lot more lately than we used to do.

 

2. A need to escape

When I shop to escape the daily grind, I am daydreaming and want to believe marketers’ promises that their products will make me happy or give my life meaning. When you see this ‘logic’ written out, the problem seems fairly straightforward. Obviously the problem is compounded by the fact that when you shop to escape, you are already not thinking clearly.

Alternatives to shopping when these emotions swell up include praying, counting blessings, going for a bike ride, or concentrating on a project. I love to sew and watch birds. D enjoys his garden. What could you do with the hour or two saved from not going on an unplanned shopping spree?

 

3. A need to celebrate

I also have a tendency to shop while (already) happy. It seems shopping really can creep into any part of your life! Rie was on the way, so I shopped and my excitement was shown in how many products I purchased. My sister engaged to marry, and my happiness for her was displayed in the gifts I gave to her and her fiancé. Sometimes it is merely a beautiful day – what better way to spend it than at an outdoor shopping strip and café?

Of all the reasons to shop listed so far, this one is the easiest to turn around. The possibilities are endless. When there is something to celebrate, you can have a party, take pictures, or make plans as needed. If it is a beautiful day you are celebrating, then take your dog for a walk, ride your bike, or enjoy a cool drink on the porch.

 

4. It’s a good deal

Sales are made to create a feeling of urgency. Marketers want you to understand the deal has an expiration date. They are ultimately taking away the time you need to consider a purchase. Do not let them do that to you. You know what you need. If you find a deal on something you are already seeking, great, go for it. When you find a great deal that does not line up with what you already know you need – let it go. Think of it as leaving the item for someone else who does, in fact, seek it. And do not fret over a lost opportunity – there will always be another sale.

 

As always, your suggestions in the comment section are welcomed, as I am nowhere close to having all the answers.

Thanks for reading!

National Day of Unplugging

Thank you, Minimalist Mom, for your post today about the National Day of Unpluggig (original blog post here).

From sunset on Friday, March 7th until sunset on Saturday, March 8th, participants are turning off their computers, logging out of social media, and finding something to do other than watch TV.

I am excited to participate and hope some of my local friends will too. I could use the company! The trick is to have an idea of what to do when that space normally occupied by technology becomes vacant. I’m lucky because I have a small kiddo at home (already 14 months!), so I know what I will be doing during her waking hours: playing with Rie, taking her for a walk, participating in a playdate, perhaps some chores.

But what about during naptime and after she goes to bed Friday night? Maybe us grown-ups will play cards, chat with long-distance loved ones on the phone…maybe just sit and enjoy a cup of tea while performing some top-notch porch setting.

Feel free to leave your brainstorm of ideas in the comments. What the heck did we all do before technology became so accessible?

Meaningless Fluff vs. College Funds

This morning I heard a shocking statistic on the radio. I hope it is not accurate. The DJ stated 9 in 10 parents are unable to save anything for their children’s future. Not unwilling, but unable, which is quite a different thing. They also stated the national average cost per child per month is around $800. This cost is mostly due to daycare expenses for young children, though I imagine sports leagues and clubs make up the cost as they grow older.

This unnerves me. Perhaps it is striking too close to home. We are actively paying off D’s truck as quickly as possible and have plans to tackle the mortgage next. We are also still recovering our savings from the foundation repair. With that said, we are not in a great financial situation, but we are putting aside $20 a month for Rie. Right now that does not seem like much, but by investing and increasing that amount once our debts are paid, she should have something to start her adult life.

Some people argue that children shouldn’t have any savings gifted to them by their parents. Maybe they are putting all of their hopes on scholarships. What I have heard argued, however, is that kids need to find jobs and figure it out on their own. I agree to a point. Kids should not be taught to feel entitled to the fruits of their parents’ labor, but they also need a little help to get ahead. My guidance comes from Proverbs 13:22: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children” (NIV).

My personal financial dream, since before she was conceived, has been to pay for Rie’s undergraduate degree. This means that when she has an entry-level job she won’t have student loans stopping her from buying a house or going to graduate school, or traveling the world, or whatever. If she decides college is not for her, I hope the money we save can be put toward some other investment, such as a house, or a fund for her children.

What does this have to do with leading a minimalistic lifestyle? Everything. Every tube of lipstick I refuse to purchase is another bit saved or paid toward the mortgage. Every time I bypass the paper napkins in the store and use cloth I am keeping money in my pocket (and having classier meals). Every time I resist the urge to buy a cute, cheap, toy for Rie, she has another drop of financial wealth in her future.

Let me add a note to point out being minimal does not mean going without. For example, my merino wool tee-shirts, of which I have two, are absolutely luxurious. Because they last longer than cotton tee-shirts they will save us money in the long run. We have everything we need plus some nice indulgences – without the throw-away, meaningless fluff. It is the lack of meaningless fluff that will pay for Rie’s college.

2/28/14 Edited to add: D read this post and thought it sounded awfully judgmental on parents who do not save for their children’s futures. I was very sorry to hear that and hope no one else thought that is what I meant to communicate. The purpose here is just to state what works for our family and why. Thanks for reading!

Changing of the Guard at the Pantry

When D and I first married I managed our pantry and menus well, if I may say so. I went shopping Sunday afternoon, after making a menu for the week. That same day produce would be washed and chopped as needed. For the rest of the week all I needed to do was assemble the meals. Easy, fresh, and very little waste.

Fast forward. When I was working full time and going to graduate school, D had the luxury of being a stay-at-home-husband while pursuing his own studies. He took over the shopping and cooking and I turned my attention elsewhere. That is to say, I had little idea at any given time of what was in our pantry.

Fast forward again. Now D and I are both working full-time while caring for our 13-month-old. D just returned to his studies, which means it is my turn to step up to the shopping/cooking plate (pun intended). Problems faced with this changing of the guard: I am officially out-of-touch with my meal preparation repertoire, since the last time I was in charge of cooking we have introduced a dairy allergy into our home, and the pantry is full of ingredients I have never used before. Like quinoa. The last time I was in charge of cooking quinoa wasn’t even in my vocabulary.

I gave myself a couple weeks to get my cooking-legs back under me and then I started to focus on the pantry. Before shot from Friday the 7th:

Pantry Before

No telling what lies below…

First I had to get organized. Organizing and minimizing are not the same thing, I don’t care what the magazines say, but in this case, it was very much needed. Expired items were tossed. Duplicates were combined. Like items grouped together. Here are the after pictures from Friday the 7th:

Left-Pantry After

baking supplies on top two shelves, teas, coffee, and honey on the bottom

Right-Pantry After

Canned goods and unopened duplicates on top, grains, bread, tortillas, pasta in middle, dried fruit, baby snacks, peanut butter, crackers, and dog treats on bottom

Next I made the week’s menu based on what was already in the pantry (novel idea!). This was easy, because I already had a strengthening grip of the shopping/cooking. I decided to give myself a week with the new organization system, go shopping again, and take another picture to see how I would fare. Saturday the 15th:

DSCN0954

Hardly a difference.

DSCN0955

Baby snacks have been reduced. Some items were depleted/re-purchased. We have more than we need for a week before going back to the store.

My goal in this area is to continue to reduce how much we keep on hand. This is a tough balance, because when you have a small child you live in fear of having to take her to the store. I have been looking to Zero Waste Home for some ideas. Another book from which I take a few tips is Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.

By the way, I’ll be making a quinoa bean salad this week. Wish me luck!