Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Do You Value? 09.22.2016

Wow.  I've been missing for some time now, haven't I?  I have been so caught up in home and work life that I've neglected to write.  But, I do miss it.  Today I was thinking about values.  Not necessarily moral or religious values.  But, just the word "value."  What do we value as a society and what do we value as individuals?  One of the things that appeals to me the most about minimalism is that it is not a "one size fits all" lifestyle.  The value one minimalist places on a particular thing can differ significantly from another minimalist.  That's the beauty of it.  It's such a flexible mentality.  It really is all about values.  

Some of us value traveling the world, while others value being settled and having roots.  Some of us value having 100 possessions, while others value a nice home filled with beautiful things.  The key is to not feel suffocated by our stuff.  If it doesn't bring us joy and happiness, then it needs to go.  It really is that simple.  Minimalism, in my opinion, is not just about stuff.  It's about what those things mean to us.  Plain and simple. Value.  

What are you valuing today?  Do you need to reassess?


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Finding a New Normal - Minimalist Life

If you're relatively new to minimalism I first want to say, "Congratulations and good for you!" Secondly I'd say... "don't give up."  Any kind of lifestyle change will be just that... a LIFE STYLE CHANGE.  In other words, it'll be exciting at the very beginning when it's all new and you're just learning about it, but the newness will eventually fade.  Once this happens, you'll either keep at it or you will revert back to your old ways of existing in the world.  So, how can you stop the "old you" from making a re-appearance?  By recognizing, accepting, and embracing your new "normal."  Do you realize that you never question getting dressed in the morning?  I mean, you may struggle with finding something to wear.  But, you don't actually question the act of getting dressed, right?  That's because to you, it's your "normal."  We weren't born with clothes on, so why is it not ever questioned?  Because, at some point, our parents just kept at it and it became our new "normal."  Now, we don't even think about it.  That's the ultimate goal with a minimalist lifestyle.  If you keep at it, it will just "be."  It will be who you are.  You won't have to think about it, you will just do things as they've always been done.  First off, you won't just robot your way to the mall and walk around aimlessly because you're "bored" and have nothing else to do.  You won't go into a store, buy a top that's "kinda" cute and not think twice about it because in the end, "it's only $4.99."  Instead, you will be so conscious of the world around you that you will instantly know and recognize that there's a lot more where that came from... literally, and that there was probably so much human suffering involved so that you could have a $5 top, that it would blow most people's mind.  So, the thought of not thoughtfully consuming something isn't even a possibility any more.  It just is.  It's the kind of conscious consumer that you are, not that you are trying to be.  How does that happen? Consistency.  Keep at it and someday, it will be second nature.  It will just be.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Busyness: When is it okay?

As summer starts to come to an end, people's lives begin to get back into the groove of everyday life.  If you're a parent, then the kids are now returning to school and perhaps life is getting a bit "easier."  If you're a teacher, it's definitely the other way around.  As I've returned to work and am now right back in the swing of things, I had to take a moment to reflect on how incredibly busy I am (hence disappearing from the writing for the past two weeks).  Not only am I back to teaching all day, every day, but I am also coaching cross country this year and volunteering with local organizations.  Aside from that, of course, I am a mom and wife first and foremost.  That alone could take up all my time.  So, when is this kind of busy... okay?  Honestly? I wish I was less busy.  But, what keeps me going is that all that I do is by choice and because I love it.  Isn't that what minimalism is all about?  Bringing out that which adds value to our life?

Teaching is not just a profession for me.  It's my life's calling.  Coaching (although I'm new to it) is something that I'm really loving because it is, in essence, an extension of teaching.  Volunteering and giving back to my community brings joy and value to my life.  Being a mom is the most exhausting of them all, but the sweetest and most amazing thing I get to do.  Would I change any of it?  No way.  That's the beauty of choosing to live a more intentional life.  It is about choosing deliberately what will take up our time and avoiding letting life happen to us by chance.  

What can you intentionally cut out of your life today?  What could you add that brings value to it?  Are you living mindfully?


Friday, July 29, 2016

Getting Re-Motivated.

Staying motivated.  In my opinion?  Is harder than getting motivated.  In my personal experience I never have trouble getting motivated about something new.  An exercise routine; a new diet plan; a new planning system; a new organization system; you fill in the blank.  I'm one of those people that gets interested in something and then researches everything there is to know about it and then I want to do it full force!  No transition period.  Just go!  This is great for getting things started.  But, one of my biggest flaws?  I get bored... fast.  Once the "newness" wears off... I wander.  My mind goes to all the other things I could be doing.  I dare say the only thing that has not happened to me with is my teaching career (thank goodness) and my relationships (thank goodness again!).  In those two areas I am 100% committed and boredom isn't a problem.  But, anything else? Poof! Excitement gone.  Boredom sets in.  The challenge has been met... and I'm ready to move on to the next thing.  Sounds so flighty, I know.

So, how can we re-motivate ourselves in an area where it doesn't serve us to get un-motivated?  For example, an area such as fitness and healthy living.  We are bombarded daily by the new thing that is going to make us thinner, more toned, more energetic, etc...  The first day of the year comes and we see hundreds of folks crammed at the gym and running the streets.  But, come March and the streets start looking lonelier and lonelier, as does the gym.  I saw this very thing happen last year as I trained for the Chicago Marathon.  At the very beginning of 2015, my usual running course was packed with new faces.  It was very exciting! New people to see.  Great! But, a couple of months later?  I seemed to be the only one out there sometimes.  What happens?  What helps me stay motivated when the bout of un-motivation sets in?

I'll let you in on a little secret.  I don't usually "enjoy" running.  What I do enjoy, however, is the sense of accomplishment that comes after a run.  I always feel awesome then!  But, during the run?  Not so much.  If anything, I'm cursing the day I was born more than I should and consistently asking myself why in the world I'm putting myself through it.  So.  Why lace up and go anyway?  Because I focus on the end result and not so much the process.  Yes, I do, sometimes, enjoy the run.  Especially when the weather is beautiful and I'm not feeling like a mobile sweat bucket.  But, let's face it.  I live in Florida.  It's hot here.  Today?  I ran 4 miles in 102 degree weather.  102! Not kidding.  It was pure hell.  But, I set a goal to run the NYC Marathon this coming November and the goal is what keeps the mundane feeling at bay.  I don't feel bored because I'm working towards accomplishing something new! Running through NYC in one of the world's largest marathons!  

Moral of the story?  Set goals.  Give yourself something to look forward to.  Make the means to an end new again and renew your motivation.  

What area have you been lacking motivation in today?  How can you re-spark it?  What goal can make it feel "new" again?


Monday, July 25, 2016

Editing a Wardrobe the "KonMari" Way

Years ago we lived in a rental home (while we re-modeled our home) and we had closets galore! In our house we only have ONE closet.  But, in the rental we had multiple.  Our master bedroom had an enormous walk-in closet that could easily fit a twin size bed and a nightstand if need be.  I kid you not.  Of course, that would have never happened because it was STUFFED.  Yes.  Stuffed with stuff.  My hubby ceded that closet entirely to me and he took over the other enormous walk in closet in the hallway.  My closet was completely packed.  Not only was it filled with clothes that was hung up, but the shelves were covered in handbags and the floor? Well... the floor had boxes and boxes of more clothes.  When the day to move into our home came, I was feeling the pressure to get rid of clothes.  How else was I to fit it all in our one closet?  My hubby hung up two rods.  The top one for him and the bottom one for me.  ONE rod??? Oh dear.  Oh... and he gave me 4 little shelves for handbags.  Wait.  Four little shelves? Yea.

I had no choice but to be completely ruthless with my wardrobe editing.  Upon moving in, I'd gotten rid of about 70% of my clothes and about 50% of my handbags and shoes.  That bottom rod at the new place? Completely stuffed with the other 30%.  So much so, I couldn't even see everything I owned and I always felt like I had "nothing to wear."  Ridiculous, right?  And yet, oddly familiar to most people out there.

Over the past 3 1/2 years that we've been at our new place, I've continued the editing process.  It wasn't until about a year ago that I cut that amount down by another 50% and it felt great! Suddenly getting dressed felt like a breeze without any stress!  This summer I went at it again... ruthlessly and with a little help from Marie Kondo's book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up."  In her book she suggests picking up each item of clothing and getting rid of it if it doesn't "spark joy."  In other words, it doesn't bring you a feeling of happiness, contentment, JOY.  If that's the case, then you are less likely to actually pick it up and wear it.  Therefore, it needs to go.  This exercise was so incredibly therapeutic and eye opening for me.  I realized I kept so many "What if?" items that didn't spark joy at all.  If anything, they simply reminded me that my pre-baby weight was a beautiful tale from long ago.  Those size 2 pants?  Yea... not sparking joy... at all.  That size 10 dress from a couple of years ago?  Not sparking joy at all because it reminds me of a time when I was incredibly unhappy with my weight.  What did spark joy?  Those articles of clothing that I reach for each and every time I get ready.  The dresses that fit right and make me feel great.  The purses that feel like me.  The shoes that go with everything and are super comfy.  Those sparked joy... and got to stay.  This is what the final outcome looks like now...

This is about a quarter of that rod my hubby installed for me.  The amount of clothing here is probably a good 10-15% of what I owned at the rental house.  These pieces spark joy.  Two pairs of jeans, one pair of patterned pants, a pants romper, some tops and cardigans and dresses for work and the occasional nicer evening event.  Done.  Where are your shorts and t-shirts, you say?  Marie Kondo recommends that these things be folded in a "filing system" way.  They are not folded on top of one another in a drawer, as most of us typically do.  But, instead, each item is folded in such a way that it stands alone and is ready to simply be picked up to wear.  This is what my shorts/tops drawer looks like (keep in mind, it includes all seasons):

I've got another small drawer holding my undergarments; another to hold my socks (which I definitely edited!!) and another holds scarves for chilly weather.  I've also got one more drawer that holds my workout (running) clothes and gear, one other set of pajamas and my swimwear.  Done.  My shoes and purses?  Edited down to the things I always reach for.  Could I edit shoes down to 3 or 4 pairs like I'd hoped?  No.  But, do I wear all of my shoes?  Yes.  All of them.  Purses?  Got those down to the bags I LOVE and that spark joy.  The rest?  Consignment or gifted.  

Getting dressed now is a joy in and of itself.  Stress free and fast.  Packing also proved to be a breeze on a recent family trip. I opened up my shorts and tops drawer and quickly grabbed what I'd need.  Easy peasy.  

At the end of the day, minimalism is not about depriving yourself of the things you love.  But, instead, it's about surrounding yourself by the things you love. Absolutely love.  Have you given your closet a nice purge lately?  Why not bless someone else with the items that are collecting dust in your closet?  It will spark joy for them and get out of your space.  Win-win!  Have a lovely week ahead!


Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Capsule Wardrobe - 14 Items

So, I'll start off by saying that I am a teacher and therefore have summers off.  Okay... now that the disclaimer is out... let's get to it!

Capsule wardrobes.  This is quite a popular idea brought about by minimalist extraordinaire, Courtney Carver's Project 333.  To learn more about Project 333, click here.  The overall idea is that for 3 months you only use 33 items of clothing, including shoes and accessories, but excluding undergarments, pajamas and workout clothes.  Why 3 months?  Because in most places, you've got 4 seasons, and that pretty much covers them all.  What do you do with your off season clothes?  You fold it away and store it out of sight.  You only work with the capsule wardrobe you've made for those three months.  When the 3 months is up, you switch the items out to accommodate the new season.

Now, I live in Florida.  Which means, we have pretty much two seasons... SUMMER and FALL.  That's about it.  Our temps range anywhere from 35 degrees up to 100 degrees F.  Other than that, it's either sunny or raining.  No snow here.  So, from about December to March, we may use sweaters and jackets.  But, from March to December, it's pretty much summer weather, with the occasional 50 degrees on a random day in October or November.  That can make for a very frustrating situation in which to create capsule wardrobes for us Floridians.  But, it can still be done.  

The picture you see here is my capsule wardrobe for the summer months of June and July.  Why only 2 months?  Because the beauty of Project 333 is that you can tweak it to serve your lifestyle.  Since I return to work in August, my wardrobe will change.  Therefore, I only did a capsule for my summer.  It consists of only 14 items.  I don't really need 33 because, again, I don't work in the summers.  So, I'm either home or traveling.  The summer months in Florida are HOT.  When I'm not hiding out in the a/c, I'm out and about running errands.  For the occasional errand? Shorts and sandals.  When I'm not feeling some sandals? Toms.  They're light and perfect summer shoes.  As for bottoms and tops? Shorts, shorts, shorts and tops that can be paired with more than one set of shorts.  

It makes getting dressed in the mornings much easier and stress-free.  I highly recommend you looking into it. What will I do for August through December?  I'll have more than 14 items, I can assure you.  However, I split it into two categories (again, tweaking)... work week and weekends.  If you work outside your home in an environment with a dress code, you will have to accommodate for that.  Thus, my suggestion is to split it into those two categories.  When creating my work week wardrobe, I am planning on using lots of dresses for the upcoming year.  Dresses make life so much easier.  All you have to match up to them is shoes! Done!  Of course, I love wearing slacks too.  But, that does require matching it up to a top and the occasional cardigan/jacket.  So... more clothes... more to think about.  

The idea here is not to deprive yourself of clothes.  But, instead, to make dressing in the mornings less stressful and less time consuming, thus freeing up your morning schedule for doing more meaningful things.  What can you do with that extra half hour?  Read your Bible, pray, sip some coffee/tea while sitting outside, think, read a book, etc... What suits you? Do that. 

Stay tuned for next week's Monday post, in which I will talk about the KonMari method of decluttering.  I used this method for doing an overall declutter of my entire wardrobe.  I will also discuss why I don't put my off season clothes out of sight.  Not that that's a bad idea, I'll just share with you why I choose not to do it (Florida weather has a lot to do with this decision).  Until next week! Have a great weekend and stay present.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

STOP! - The Effect of Ads on Our Desires & Our Debt

Ads.  A small word with an incredible power over our psyche.  We may not realize it, but, as of 2006, the average American was being exposed to as many as 5,000 ads per day.  Yep.  Per.... DAY.  Click here to read that CBS News article.  Now, keep in mind, that was as of 2006.  It is now 2016.  Our exposure to ads has grown leaps and bounds since.  With things like YouTube, Facebook ads, Instagram sponsored posts, Pinterest sponsored pins, and on and on... I'd dare say, the number has probably significantly gone up.  It's no wonder people are in debt up to their eyeballs and still not satisfied.  We buy the latest iPhone, only to be reminded a year later that we now hold the old model.  We turn our television sets on during the holidays just in time to be slapped in the face with that annoying Lexus commercial where the wife/mother gets a brand new Lexus SUV with a giant red bow on it from her husband.  Now, not only do we have car envy, but husband envy as well! Haha! On top of the advertisers, we also have celebrities pushing products on us and lifestyles we cannot actually afford.  How do we STOP the madness???

To be honest?  We can't stop all of it.  I mean, we can't avoid billboards and the occasional TV ad.  But, we can minimize our exposure to ads by limiting the activities we partake in that are riddled with them.  For instance, TV is probably where most folks get the bulk of it.  By limiting tube time, we are preventing most of the ads coming our way.  Another way to limit them is through the use of a DVR.  I only ever watch one TV show.  My guilty pleasure is The Bachelorette/Bachelor.  It really is such a ridiculous show, but that's for another post.  The truth is, I like to sit there and watch it and get a good giggle out of the whole ridiculous thing.  But, I don't want to watch all the ads that come with it.  So, I typically record the show using our DVR and then watch it the next day while fast forwarding through all the commercials.  Otherwise, I watch YouTube, Netflix or Hulu.  All of which have very limited ads, if any at all.  Another way to avoid ads? Unsubscribe to magazines.  With Pinterest and the Internet, who needs magazines anymore?  I remember the good ole' days when flipping through a magazine was something I looked forward to.  But, nowadays they seem to have way more ads in them than they do any valuable content.  It's terrible.  I didn't pay $6 for a magazine filled with Dolce & Gabbana ads, thank you very much. My last tip? Unfollow any retailers on your social media.  I used to follow Nike, Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, etc... But then would get all bummed when I'd see the beautiful xyz's that I couldn't actually afford.  So, why do that to ourselves? Unfollow! Boom! Problem solved. 

Remember that advertising agencies thrive on making us feel "less than."  We are less than because we don't have the newest and coolest couch.  But, we can restore our coolness for just $2,500.  We used to be awesome with our iPhone 5, but are now subpar because, hellloooooo.... the iPhone 6!! Duh!  It's okay, for $800 or another dreaded cell phone company contract, you can upgrade! Yippee!  We had a perfectly good wardrobe until we saw our favorite fashion blogger sporting the latest Tory Burch flats in the new summer colors!! AH! MUST HAVE THOSE!  No worries... for a quick $225, you can have those too! Don't have the money?? No biggie... credit card companies will be happy to oblige for a mere 20% A.P.R., of course.  Next thing we know... the dreaded D word has reared its ugly head... DEBT.  Now, we owe a bunch of money for stuff that's wore off and been replaced by the newest model.  It's a vicious cycle from which we can be freed.  All it takes is prevention.  Avoid the ads whenever possible.  And yes... that includes going out to browse the stores just because.  Stores are filled with ads as well.  50% off! BOGO! Or, of course, the giant pictures of 90 pound models frolicking through the sandy beaches in the latest beaded beach coverup.  You too can be as happy as this 16 year old model from Europe if you buy this $125 coverup! Forget that you're actually 46 and could easily be that model's mother...

Don't be fooled.  Be smart.  Be proactive in preventing the exposure.  And when you are exposed to the ads, which you will be... think.  Think about the reason behind the ads.  Is it to really make you happier?? Or is it in that company's interest of making a profit?  Think.