So, what’s a Minimalist?

I wanted to share this video I saw on YouTube recently, because I think it’s probably the best video I’ve seen about minimalism so far (and trust me, I’ve watched a lot).

Specifically, it’s one of the most thorough explanations I’ve seen of what it can mean to be a minimalist and how you can go about becoming one. Also, here is the link from Becoming Minimalist that Audra uses as a template for her discussion. If you’re curious about the minimalist lifestyle and what it can potentially do for you, check these out :)!

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Happy New Year!

Yes, I realize it is already a full week into 2016, but as it’s likely clear by now, I am not the greatest at posting in a timely fashion. Ah, well. I’m sorry. But I hope everyone had a nice holiday season — and a good 2015, for that matter.

Looking back, it was a really fun year for S and me. It seems like we went a lot of places and did many interesting things. Our most involved travel adventure was a road trip we took to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to see Rob Zombie and Korn (plus a ton of other bands) back in October. Along the way we stopped in Hope, Arkansas (where we toured the childhood home of Bill Clinton), Memphis, Tennessee (Graceland) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (The Warhol). We had a blast!

Here are some pictures of the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich I tried at Graceland. Mmm, yummy! S, for some odd reason, does not like bananas so he didn’t partake, but he had a veggie burger that was pretty good, too :).

PB and banana sandwich

What else can I say about 2015? As the year came to a close, I found myself not feeling the need to make a ton of resolutions, for once. It feels odd saying it but I think I’ve gotten to a point where I am just generally happy and content with the way my life works. I’ve managed to cut out a lot of excess and focus on what matters most to me:  my marriage and home life, reading, and writing as much as possible.

Speaking of which…I blew my yearly reading goal out of the water. I read more books in 2015 than I ever have before in my life (or at least since I started keeping track) — 86! I know some people regularly read way more than that, but for me 86 is a crazy-high number. I usually hover somewhere around 50. The greatest part of this is that 40 of those were “old” books, or titles I’d had in my possession prior to Christmas, 2014. So I was able to wipe a whole bunch of reallly old stuff off my TBR list. This makes me happy. Very happy. So even though I didn’t do so well at controlling the number of new books I acquired (I bought 73, all told, and that’s not counting Christmas presents), I still feel pretty good about the progress I made in this area. Here’s hoping this year I can beat the reading record again, as well as actually stick to my rules of not buying stuff I can’t read right away. I still need a bit more discipline in that area, it seems.

On the writing front, I also probably wrote/revised more in 2015 than ever before, too. I’ve got a couple of long-ish projects in the works right now, but am too superstitious to say anything else about them at this point :). Soon, I hope.

And on the minimalism front…the other day I went into Walmart and didn’t buy anything that wasn’t on my (very short) shopping list. If that doesn’t say I’ve turned the minimalist corner, I’m not sure what does. And it’s not like I wasn’t tempted. I almost bought pumpkin pie- and cake batter-flavored ChapSticks. And a Star Wars puzzle. These things may or may not have gone for a little ride in my shopping cart. But the important thing is, they saw their way back out of there before I left the store! There’s a time when that wouldn’t have happened. I felt so much better having said “no” to these things, though, not because there’s anything wrong with buying them but because I know I didn’t need them and I would have regretted buying more stuff for no good reason. This year I hope to continue to buy less, get rid of more, minimize and just generally continue to simplify my life. It feels so much better this way.

Hoping your year has gotten off to a great start, and wishing you a wonderful 2016,

Elizabeth

A nice video

I really liked this video!

I thought this young lady did a great job of succinctly summing up her journey from living a materialistic life to a more minimalist one, and I could relate to many of the things that she said.

If you are looking for encouragement and inspiration to make changes in your life to become more minimalist (or if you are just curious about what it means to be minimalist), I’d recommend watching it.

Have an awesome day,

Elizabeth

5 TBR (the impossible dream?)

On Tuesdays, I post a bit about what I have been reading lately.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to SO not be a minimalist, right? Well, here’s another example.

I used to work in a video store. This was back in the days when movies were released on VHS. I love movies (and I had a pretty good employee discount), so I used to buy TONS of tapes. One day I told one of my co-workers that I had bought so many VHS, I had stacks of them at home that I had never watched or even unwrapped. He was shocked. He said “When I buy a movie, I am always so stoked to watch it that I can’t wait. I take it home and watch it that night!”

So then, I was shocked, because…it made me wonder. Why was I buying so many tapes if I wasn’t excited enough to watch them, not just that very same night but in some cases, not ever? Basically, I was just hoarding. Something I used to do a lot of back then. Thankfully I (eventually) got over that sort of behavior. For the most part.

Recently, this little tid-bit of conversation with my co-worker re-surfaced in my memory while I was contemplating my TBR piles (both physical and digital). I counted and it seems S and I own roughly 178 books that I have never read :(. Granted, a lot of these are his, not things I bought for myself, but…some are mine and altogether, there are probably around 100 or more that I would like to read someday. I know this sounds crazy and it will likely take me a few years, but I would like to get that number down to…5.

Yes, 5 total!

Wouldn’t that be awesome? I can’t see myself reading more than 5 books at any one time anyway (I usually read 1 – 3, MAYBE 4), so 5 seems like a decent number to have in reserve at any given time.

In order to make this happen, I will obviously have to stop buying so many books. So I’ve implemented a new rule for myself. From now on, I can only buy things I will read immediately*. Things that I am “stoked” to read right away. Because if I’m not that excited about reading it NOW (or in the VERY near future), it can probably wait, hm? True, it may no longer be on sale later (this is where I get into trouble, with sales! Particularly of e-books), but…I think I’d rather pay more for it later than to have it sit on the shelf now, making me feel bad for who-knows-how-many months. Or years. Because I do. Feel bad. Even though digital books don’t take up physical space, they still tend to take up mental space. For me, anyway. I get anxious when I see how much stuff I’ve bought that I still haven’t gotten around to reading, and when I start to feel as though I will never catch up.

Anyway, we’ll see how this works out, but so far so good. In March, I bought ONE ebook and I read it right away. The TBR pile did not grow! Instead, it shrank by 5 books. In April, I bought 2 ebooks and 1 small paperback and I am currently in the process of reading all of them right away, too. Plus I read 4 books from the TBR pile, so yet again, it got smaller. I like this feeling, of using and enjoying things I already have instead of feeling like I am just hoarding new ones.

I will continue to report on how this little (okay, pretty big) goal of mine is progressing over the following months. In the meantime, here’s a book I finished over the weekend and can finally take off my TBR list (after having it sit on my shelf for almost 4 years)! Woo-hoo!

DSCF3466  Happy reading,

Elizabeth

*PS – An exception to this rule may occur at Christmas time, when I tend to get a lot of books as gifts. If I do get gifts, I won’t count them against myself, especially since I tend to be pretty good about reading those within a few months of receiving them :).

PPS – And may I also take this opportunity to brag on my husband, who does not seem to have this book-hoarding issue? He usually just reads as he buys. I look forward to the day I can do this, too. Honestly, I used to pretty much do that, too, but within the past two years or so, my e-book buying has escalated.

Pressure on Valentine’s Day?

If you are in a relationship, do you feel pressured to make special occasions “perfect” for your significant other?

I was reading something recently about the anxiety some men feel on Valentine’s Day. They know their wife or girlfriend has really high expectations and are worried they won’t get the day “just right” for her. I asked my husband if he felt that way. He said he felt some pressure the first Valentine’s Day we spent together, because we’d only been dating since November and he wasn’t sure what I expected.

I remember that first Valentine’s Day, of course. He offered to make dinner for me at my new apartment. I said that would be nice and suggested he make a pizza and bring over some beer. Yeah, I’ve always had pretty refined tastes ;).

I found some pictures from that first V-Day S and I spent together, back in 2000. They aren’t the greatest because they are scanned from prints I’m pretty sure were taken with a disposable camera! But it’s fun to look back and remember the cute balloons, bear, and roses he brought me.

Valentine's Day balloons 2_2000

Valentine's Day flowers and bear 2000

And of course the meal he prepared!

Valentine's Day pizza 1 2000

And here I am, looking rather young and quite pleased with my slices of pizza and can of beer. I can’t fool myself into thinking I still look that young (alas!) but I like to think I still look that happy :).

Liz 2.1 Valentine's Day 2000

I find it interesting that in the beginning of a relationship, every little thing a man does for you can seem like such a big deal, but then, over time, you can start to take things for granted. It’s just human nature. But that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. It’s always good to remember how lucky we are to have special people in our lives, whether they be spouses, SO’s, friends, or relatives, and it’s also good to remember that we don’t need to give each other fancy presents to prove we care about one another.

As for my husband, he assured me that nowadays when it comes to holidays, he “doesn’t sweat it.” Ha, ha! He said it helps that I’m easy to please, and that we haven’t exchanged gifts on Valentine’s Day for years now, anyway. We just exchange cards and look for a way to spend time and have fun together (and he does still get me flowers). We usually do not even go out on the actual holiday, as every place is packed and neither of us loves crowds. This year we plan on picking up some takeout (Pad Thai, perhaps?) and eating it here at home. I’m also making these skinny red velvet cinnamon rolls tonight, so we can have them for breakfast tomorrow. I’m excited about them and really hope they turn out!!

I hope you have a pressure-free Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Whoever you decide to spend it with, I hope you will thoroughly enjoy that person’s company and take the opportunity to try and let them know they are loved; that is the quickest route to happiness, anyway, is by making someone else smile!

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Elizabeth

Go ahead and do less.

I’ve found that you can do two things well, and one thing really well. With two focuses, you won’t be as concentrated, won’t learn as deeply, but it’s doable. With three or four focuses, you won’t do anything well or learn anything deeply or serve anyone exceptionally.

So start paring down to two things: figure out what the most important two things in your life are, and cut out the rest. Be ruthless.

-Leo Babauta, writing at Zen Habits

Growing up, my mom taught me to appreciate small things like a trip to the library or a walk around the neighborhood. So I knew you didn’t have to do extravagant, expensive stuff in order to have fun and enjoy life. But I never heard of minimalism or voluntary simplicity or anything along those lines. And I guess I watched too many movies and TV shows or something because I definitely had it in my head that more was better. If you weren’t doing twenty things and being amazing at them and looking great while you did them, you might as well not count. You might as well be nothing, a loser. Which was too bad for me, because I never seemed to have the kind of energy or ambition required to do a lot of things, no matter how hard I tried :(. As a result, I always wound up feeling bad for getting tired when I’d take on too much, and for being so…well, slow.

It seems to take me a long time to do most anything well: read a book, cook a meal, walk around the grocery store. I can force myself to speed up for a while, but I can never sustain that for very long, and then afterward I am exhausted.

So when I started learning about minimalism and such, it made me really happy. It felt like someone finally gave me permission to feel the way I do and to live the way I want. That probably sounds stupid to people who have always done exactly what they wanted to do, but…apparently I could not figure out for myself that this was okay. I needed a ton of minimalist authors and bloggers to open my eyes :).

Now that I know better, I’ve reduced my activities a lot. I sometimes feel weird (and guilty) about scaling back so much because it seems I’m traveling in the opposite direction from most other people. Instead of looking for more things to do, I’m trying to do fewer. Instead of adding, I’m steadily subtracting. While everyone else is talking about how busy they are, I’m really…not.

But you know what?

It feels great.

I am happier and more focused than I’ve ever been. And it turns out I DO have energy and ambition — for the things I actually care about! I think in the past I got caught up in a lot of stuff that wasn’t a good fit for me because it was what other people were doing, or because I thought I “should” be doing it. Duh. 😦

Anyway, if you’re reading this and you feel too busy and stressed out and you haven’t heard this before (or need to hear it again today), I just want to say to you what I wish someone had said to me when I was a kid:
Not everyone is wired the same way. Some of us might only be here (as in on this planet) to do one or two or a few things and that’s fine. Figure out what it is that you’re supposed to be focusing on (not on what everyone else thinks you should be focusing on) and then go for it. Pour your heart and soul into what matters to you most, cut out the rest, and see what happens.

Go ahead and do less.

If you decide you don’t like being so minimal, it’s super easy to start adding things back into your schedule and life. Probably too easy!

Best wishes,
Elizabeth