Category Archives: Minimalism

It’s 1996, Let’s Buy Cheez Whiz

file0002020216998De-cluttering and becoming minimalist has had some fun moments. My husband is starting to get on board and agreed to go through old paperwork with me that was stored neatly, although obsessively, in our many (Eight! Seriously!) file cabinets. I found an entire set of folders of old grocery receipts, dated in the 1990s. I learned some interesting things about my husband from them.

“I never bought Cheez Whiz,” he says.

“Hoo Hoo, it says Cheez Whiz, right here. April, 1996. You bought Cheez Whiz.”

“Maybe I was making Macaroni and Cheese?”

“Cheez Whiz is the stuff that you spray out of a can, right?”

“I don’t eat that stuff.”

Pause for “the look,” which after 12 years of marriage is close to being perfect.

“It must have been for a party or something.”

“Uh huh.”

Days later, I proceeded to shred the evidence, along with stuff that had financial information and social security numbers, perhaps more damaging in the wrong hands than even the Cheez Whiz receipt. The somewhat ancient shredder died on me, so I bagged it up along with the paper shreds. I actually made it so far as to toss the whole thing in the trash can (cut me some slack, our recycling bin was full, and I just wanted the stuff out of the house).

Later, my husband rescued the whole thing.

The shredder was just temperamental, he said (sure enough, scared for its life in a land fill, it started right back up). The shreds were not cross-cut, so they needed to be burned in the backyard. (Yes, yes, green police, I know, strike two.)

So, what was the purpose of spending time with the old shredder if it still required burning paper in the backyard?

Booyah! score one for Minimalist Wife and the shredder is no longer taking up space in our basement. (Minimalist Wife is blessed to have a husband who can concede defeat when presented with logic.)

The shredder never did make it out to the donation pile in the car, so I have my suspicion it might have been quietly buried in the backyard where it will one day be unearthed and declared an ancient device used in religious rituals.

Progress is progress.

 

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Banish the Aspirations

file0001885192404Aspirational Objects are things that don’t serve an immediate purpose, but usually remind us what we aspire to do and to be. Sometimes these objects can be inspirational, such as a beautiful photograph that reminds us to seek out simplicity and calm. Most of the time, though, these aspirational objects serve only to make us feel guilty or inadequate, such as the three pairs of size 4 pair of pants we will never wear again, the tiny but expensive jar of truffle oil for a gourmet meal we haven’t gotten around to cooking, or the stacks of woodworking magazines for the home improvement projects that never happened.

These are the “someday” things. “Someday I’ll (fill in the blank).” If the someday ever does come to pass, won’t it be more of a delight to go out and find objects that fit your new reality instead of making do with something that might not fit?

While there is nothing wrong with aspiring to something better, something different, why not invest our focus on the lives we are living now, and own with objects that speak to us, serve a purpose or add value in our lives? Being surrounded by reminders of what we have failed to accomplish or decided didn’t work for us gives us negativity, not freedom.

My challenge for us all today (and I hope that you will join me), is to banish at least one aspirational object from your home and your life. If you take the challenge, please comment on your accomplishment!

 

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Becoming Minimalist

I had the good fortune of interviewing Joshua Becker of the website Becoming Minimalist for the Minimal Mom column with Western New York Family Magazine

Minimal Mom: Interview with the Becoming Minimalist Dad

by Mary Ann Carrado Romans

Joshua Becker describes himself as being the dad in a typical middle class family. Becker, his wife and their two young children are a self-described typical middle class who have adopted a minimalist lifestyle. The author of two books and a popular blog, www.becomingminimalist.com, he hopes to share the lessons his family has learned and inspire others to intentionally live with less. Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Becker about the joys and the challenges of being both a minimalist and a family man.

Why should families consider minimalism?

Because our “stuff” is not adding as much value to our lives as we think. In fact, it is distracting us from truly living and burdening us with all sorts of different cares and obligations. Consider for just a moment how much of your time and energy is spent in the pursuit or management of your possessions. We research and purchase our possessions, we bring them into our home, we have to organize and clean and repair and remove and replace… and that doesn’t even begin to count all the hours we worked in the first place just to earn the money that we used to buy things that we have to organize and clean… It’s becoming too much. All the while, the most important elements of our lives, the truly life-giving ones (our families, our relationships, our passions) are being pushed aside.

What has living with less brought into your life? 

Practically speaking, owning fewer possessions means that we have less debt, less stress, and less cleaning. We have more time and energy and mental capacity to pursue the things that are most important to us. In short, it has brought into the life the opportunity to pursue our greatest passions.

What have been some of the challenges? 

First off, one of the greatest challenges is that not everyone in the family is convinced to the same degree on the importance of minimalism. My wife and I have both bought in – but to varying degrees. However, my two small children aren’t so convinced. Secondly, even if every member of the family did buy into the lifestyle completely, each unique individual is going to define their most important passion and pursuit differently. As a result, the things they need are going to look different. I’ve learned there is no simple formula for minimalism and it always requires patience, grace, and flexibility.

What would your children say about your lifestyle?

My son, nine, gets it. He understands it to the extent that he can. My daughter, six, is not so sure. For her, the number of dolls in her room or clothes in her closet is never enough. But I don’t blame her for that. At this point, that’s what is most important to her. In response, we try to model a life of contentment and communicate life lessons when appropriate “You know, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time picking up your toys if there weren’t so many of them.” But I can relate to her beliefs and pursuits… after all, they perfectly resemble mine for the first 30+ years of my life.

What mistakes did you make in the beginning of your journey that could serve as lessons for others? 

I threw away the Jell-o molds my wife had bought for my son’s upcoming birthday party. Of course, she didn’t realize that until she went to cut the Jell-o just a few short hours before the party was set to begin. So basically, I forgot to communicate with my wife. I jumped in with both feet and proceeded to start removing the things I saw in the house that I saw no reason to keep. I quickly realized it is far easier to recognize someone else’s clutter than it is to recognize our own. Expecting someone else to progress as quickly down the road to minimalism as you is unfair to them.

Is minimalism just about getting rid of things in your life?

Minimalism is about increasing intentionality in our lives. It is about removing the distractions so we are better able to pursue what is the most important, valuable, and lasting. Physical possessions are often the most obvious, because we can see them with our eyes. There is just as much benefit in removing the distracting time commitments, relationships, or unhealthy habits from our lives, too. Typically, I find that removing the unnecessary physical possessions from our homes opens up our heart and mind to identifying and removing some of the other barriers.

Are there any downsides to minimalism?

Most of the downsides are removed by remembering that minimalism is not rigid and inflexible. I have recently begun playing the game of tennis after taking 17 years off after high school. I love the sport, the exercise, the competition, and the relationships. I found it was adding value into my life. So I bought a new tennis racket. Minimalism serves me, I don’t serve it. In that way, minimalism works. I don’t feel confined by it in any way.

So many parents are already overwhelmed. Do you have any advice on how they can get started on living with less?

Just start small and with your own stuff. Experience the emotions that accompany the process, so you are better equipped to help the others in your family down the road. You’ll find great freedom and life in the process. Your family members will notice the benefits and desire it as well.

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Why You’ll Never See a Sparrow on Hoarders

file0001829268490Snowed in. The bright white of the world brings new promise to the day, the week, the year. The sky, a soft, happy blue, is the perfect foil against snow-covered branches that reach up, swaying in the wind, every movement bringing forth a new flutter of polka dots of snow. The cat wonders if he can catch any of it.

The baseboard heat ticks and clings and rumbles softly, trying to keep us warm and providing a little bit of a concert each time the furnace kicks in.

I sigh and turn back to the bags and boxes that litter our bedroom, when all I really want to do is get back in bed with my very interesting book and another cup of coffee. The piles of stuff slated for donation is slightly depressing, not energizing, as I thought it would be.  This morning, I’m afraid to let go.  So, I log a few things in my notebook, for tax purposes and then stare out the window. The clutter is sucking me down.

There are two birds playing in the holly trees. Despite the wind, they hop up and down the branches. Their joy is obvious and immediate. One knocks a bit of snow on the other, who unafraid ruffles its feathers a bit and hops some more. They feast on the berries.

Then I have one of those moments. Something pops into my mind, a bit of a verse. Something about being taken care of, about being in His loving arms. I look it up.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

In other words, I need to get over myself. Stop worrying. Stop holding on to so much.

Gently, He tells me; have faith, and I do. This is good for me, for my family. Removing the clutter. Removing the distractions.  Freeing us for what is important. Like hugging a child and finding treasures in the snow.

Letting all of this go today (items since the last update are in bold):

  • One box of old photos
  • Sweaters
  • Towels
  • Sweatshirts
  • Underwear drawer
  • Make up and toiletries
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Recipe magazines
  • Baskets
  • Rags (Ugh, why was I keeping so many–was I worried about a shortage?)
  • One kitchen cabinet
  • Cookie sheets, muffin pans and platters
  • Pens and Pencils (Until I went around the house and actually gathered them all up, I had no idea how many we had! A bunch went in the trash and a bag full of nice ones were donated to my son’s kindergarten teacher, who will have enough writing instruments to last until said son is in college.)
  • One kitchen drawer (Goodbye chip clips. I sent them to a new friend I met online who was in dire need of some.)
  • More books! (The recent purging and a prompt from organizing guru, Peter Walsh, has made me brave enough to get rid of another large box of books.)
  • The Junk Drawer!!!
  • Master Bedroom Bedding (I even sewed a button on to our comforter cover–a bit of mental clutter solved)
  • Kids Puzzles and Workbooks (I somehow missed this when I did the toys earlier in the week)
  • Socks (All five of us plus the bag of single socks)
  • Utensils
  • Belts
  • Some photos (This will be a long project)
  • Children’s closets (3)
  • Flat surface two (Bedroom dresser)
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Flat surface 3 (Left kitchen pantry)
  • Under the kitchen sink
  • The Car (Hint for those in freezing weather: Grab a laundry basket. Make a mad dash to the car. Fill the laundry basket. Dash back in the house. Sort in the warmth of the living room. Oh, and don’t forget to wear shoes. Brr.)
  • One large food pantry
  • Magazines
  • Flat surface one (Produce bin)
  • Toys (one large contractor bag–whoo hoo)
  • Children’s books
  • Children’s videos
  • Adult Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Adult medicine cabinet
  • Children’s medicine cabinet

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