Month: July 2013

Minimalism. Just. Got. Real.

Sad painting

“When I diagnose my depression now, I think it was partially about saying goodbye to these kids that I always expected to have but already knew that I wouldn’t.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Years ago, I had a crazy idea to put most of my things in the attic. I’m still going through them. Since the beginning of this year, I have braved the cold and heat of the storage space to chip away at the pile of boxes and random bags of things I don’t need. Piece by piece, I have lightened my load significantly. I am almost finished. I have only a few boxes left.

So close. Yet so far away.

At first, going up there was fun. Discovering boxes of things I could easily get rid of was thrilling. But now there are few surprises. The boxes that are up there are there because I’ve been putting them off. I know what’s in them. And this is where minimalism and I must get very real with each other.

The box I must face next is plain, average sized, and labeled “baby clothes”.

Minimalism and personal development seem to go hand in hand. Do we choose minimalism because we are ready to start dealing with our emotional inventory? Or does the internal work come with the commitment to minimalism? All I know from my experience so far is that it’s happening at the same time. In committing to dealing with the things from my past – things I don’t need anymore and things I hide from myself – I am committing to deal with the emotions and memories from my past as well. Not an easy task for me.

The baby clothes are mine. My mother saved them for me. I kept them in the past because they reminded me of my fabulous early childhood spent in San Salvador and Naples. I don’t remember but I imagine myself wearing them while scooting around with my parents from place to place where strangers would pinch my cheeks and touch my blond hair. As if holding the fabric would bring all that back to my mind somehow. But there is another reason I still have my old baby clothes.

I kept them in case I had a daughter someday.

Years ago, we tried to have a baby. I’ve always wanted children. Because I worked with kids so much, I reckoned I’d be an awesome mommy. I’ve attended five home births. I’ve studied homeschooling and taught homeschooled children. I’m great with kids, most of my friends have them, my sisters have them, I’m pretty sure it would make my mother’s year if I had them. It’s what women my age do…right?

I didn’t get pregnant. Instead of going through a lot of trouble to “make it happen”, I searched my soul and found something unexpected: I don’t want to have kids. I made the decision (and until my biological clock stops ticking, I continue to make the decision) with eyes wide open. I made it knowing all about the beauty and rewards of being a mother. I made it even though I knew it would disappoint people. I made it because I looked at my life and decided to put everything I could be as a mother into the lives of other women’s children – and into my relationship with my favorite man on the planet.

Getting rid of the box does not mean my decision is final. If I ever change my mind or if Mother Nature has other plans, I can always buy baby clothes. But getting rid of that box feels like a message to the universe. Not a reminder of my regrets but the decision to intentionally disappoint people. The decision to leave a few dreams behind so I can build new ones.

I know I don’t have to get rid of it. I’m not a hardcore minimalist. Not yet. I just don’t want to hide things anymore – things, emotions, or anything else. I don’t want to have things I’m not willing to face. I don’t want a box of beautiful of baby clothes to rot so I can tell my mother I saved them for her someday grandchildren.

Minimalism is not just about things. It’s about facing the past. It’s about facing the future. It’s about getting very real with who we are and what we want out of life. I believe our physical life is a representation of our internal, emotional state. I have a long way to go before I can say I’m a minimalist. But box by box, I’m getting there. I force myself to deal with the things I keep hidden.  With each decision to keep or get rid of something, I decide where I’m going and who I want to be.

A box of baby clothes is not just a box. It’s an opportunity to create my journey and move forward. Nothing hidden. No regrets.

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The Closet Countdown: Weekly Update #4

20130728-101007.jpgIt’s been four weeks since I started The Closet Countdown and the honeymoon phase is pretty much over. I still remain positive about trying it. Determined to see it through. A strange mix of optimism and stubbornness, I know. It’s working for me so far.

I miss t-shirts. I kept one of my man’s white v-neck Hanes shirts to sleep in or wear with shorts if I needed to. Love it. But I wish I had a few more. The tops I kept are versatile – I can wear most of them to work, work out, or go out. They are even comfy enough for just hanging out around the house. But I miss some of my girlie, fitted, soft cotton t-shirts. I may not get rid of t-shirts when this is over.

I also miss some of my other summer dresses. If you’ve read any of my previous updates, you know that my Lily Dress makes me very happy and is a GREAT summer dress. It’s everything I need in easy going clothing. But this week, I missed my vintage cotton dress. It’s a beautiful hassle: cotton fabric requires ironing, extra under clothing, and special washing instructions. But I still love it.

20130728-101048.jpgI think a big part of minimalism is discovering what you really need and what you don’t want to live without. There are things that hold us back and there are things that lift us up. I find joy in figuring out how that applies to each item in my closet – and my life.

On a different – and less whiny – note, I did not wear my Lily dress out this week (gasp. shock. suprise!). I did wear it to play outside with kiddos but for a change of pace, I went with another great travel gem: the Merrell Emery dress. Dinner at a friend’s house on Wednesday and then out and about to brunch and a movie on the weekend. I even slept in it because I was behind on laundry (and I don’t have any extra t-shirts). The fabric is so soft. I changed the look of the dress by adding a little thing I use to help keep my sarong in place. Not sure what it’s called but it’s made of coconut shell and has two holes. Changed the look of the dress and I loved it.

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I found another shirt I do not love. I want to love it. I really do. But it’s not a Hell Yeah. So I had to let it go. I’m down to 53 items now. Might have to go grab a couple of t-shirts to supplement. 🙂

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, commenting, and encouraging. It helps keep me going. Cheers!

The Closet Countdown: Weekly Update #3

20130721-165933.jpgTwenty-one days of The Closet Countdown and I’m still doing okay. Still learning a lot. It’s how I roll.

Last week I did a little bit of walking/running and I already know I miss my athletic leggings with the nifty little pocket in the waistband. I did keep leggings but I chose a versatile style that could be used for athletics or regular apparel. No pockets. I’ll be fine…I guess. My teal skort has pockets but my black one doesn’t. Only two athletic items with pockets might get to be a little bit inconvenient.

While I’m on the subject of inconvenient, washing clothes in the shower is not working for me. I like to make showering as efficient as possible. I do not enjoy the extra time it takes to squish, rinse, roll in a towel, then hang my clothes. Lighter items like underclothes and tank tops aren’t bad but it becomes impractical when it comes to larger items like leggings and dresses. So I use the washing machine a little more frequently. I love being outside and that means sweat in the summer. I refuse to stay indoors more so I can keep my clothes cleaner longer. I have my priorities.

I continue to search for the “flow” of minimalism. Just enough simplicity to give me more freedom to focus on what matters most without creating superfluous work. I’m getting there. Slowly.

Though I do try to wear other dresses, I keep coming back to the Lily. I wore the black one twice this week. The first time was to an open mic night event at a coffee shop. I paired it with my favorite sarong as a long vest (as seen in my Mini Minimalism Experiment: Three Days One Dress).

On Saturday, I really tried to wear something different to an outdoor concert. I did that girlie thing where I tried on about five different outfits before admitting I just really wanted to wear my Lily. I was going see a band that played a combination of Motown and funk. Had to go classic little black dress.

I am so glad I did. When we got there it was raining. We set up our chairs to reserve our spot and hoped it would clear up soon. Eventually, the sun came back out and the rain clouds passed. Perfect weather for a summer evening concert. My chair, however, was soaked. I didn’t care because the Lily is made of a swimsuit-like material. I can’t say it was comfortable sitting in a damp chair but unlike a friend who came in white capris, I was fine. Especially since I love to dance. With the movement, the dress dried quickly. I seldom sat down entire night.

Next summer, I’ll buy a few more colors and wear the Lily to every event. It’s the perfect dress for travel and a life full of everyday adventures.

As always, thanks for joining me. I appreciate your time and I promise to keep you posted on my “progress”. Cheers!

P.S.

  • I’ve posted more pictures on The Closet Countdown Page.
  • The band we saw is Matchmaker Band from Austin, Texas. Excellent musicianship and super sweet crew. If you are ever in need of the best Motown/Funk band in Texas, please look them up here.

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Stuff and Love

20130718-112020.jpgAs I lighten my load and explore many negative emotions associated with the process, I’ve learned that sometimes, the joy comes later. That’s the good news for me and for anyone else experimenting with minimalism. The joy isn’t always there right away. Well, not for me anyway. I second guess myself a lot. So this process is not any different…

I’m still working through the stuff I put up in the attic when I first started My Simplicity Quest. It’s a lot of stuff. But every day, I take down a few things and decide to keep them or get rid of them. So far, it’s just that. Making a place for the things I decide to keep and converting my boxes of old pics to digital copies is for later. Next year, probably. I must keep it simple or I will quit. I know because that’s what I’ve done in the past.

Some of the stuff is easy to toss in a box labeled “Donate”. It’s not useful, beautiful, nor does it hold special meaning for me. But other stuff is not so easy. I’m getting better. Taking a picture before I send it on helps.

I used to think I loved some of my stuff. But as I sort through all of my personal possessions (and endeavor to be honest with myself) I learn that it’s not the stuff that I love. It’s the people I associate with them. It’s the memory it represents. It’s the way I use it in my life. Stuff is just a reminder of love. My guitar reminds me that l love music. My dad’s old Dunhill lighter reminds me of his pipe and his cigarettes and the way he liked to smoke them while reading the paper. My dresses remind me that I love to feel girlie.

In a big, fat cheesy way, it’s all about love.

Yep. I went there.

(Don’t you love how you start out with an idea about what you want to write and then when you begin it grows into something else? It’s like some strange magic. It only happens when I get to the page and put it out there.)

I had a different title for this article: “Take a Picture. Say Goodbye. Let it go. “I was going to write about finding a picture of a an old backpack. How it made me happy to see it instead of sad. I had details to share about how my identity was wrapped up in that bag and all the happy memories I associate with it. The difficultly of letting it go because it was falling apart after years of use. The joy in knowing that I made the right decision.

But I guess my heart needed to know why I felt that sadness and why I felt that joy. My head and my hands gave me the answer through the process of writing. It’s about the love. Not the stuff.

Thanks for traveling with me along this path. I am quite the corny companion. But if you’ve read any of my other posts, you already know that. And you are still here. I think that’s awesome. Cheers to you and the love you find on your journey…

The Closet Countdown: Weekly Update #2

20130713-161950.jpgAnother week has gone by in the The Closet Countdown. I’m still having a blast. Perhaps the “newness” of it still hasn’t worn off. Or maybe I’m just the kind of person to likes to keep things fun. Maybe it’s both.

I’ve learned to appreciate my basic pieces more and more (which I think is a big part of what minimalism and simplicity are all about). I thought I would get tired of my wardrobe (and maybe I will eventually) but so far, I feel great about my decisions and the thought I put into choosing each piece.

I also have items I don’t even wear that I thought I would. So maybe the beautiful (and super smart) Courtney Carver and her Project 333 aren’t as crazy as I thought. 🙂 I LOVE learning that I can do things I thought I couldn’t. Might have to try Project 333 for my next experiment in minimalism…

I continue to wear often and love my Lily. This week, I wore the black one on a road trip to the Texas Hill Country and the pink one to an outdoor concert. Just can’t beat it. I refuse to apologize for sounding like a broken record in praise of this dress.

I’ve been adding pictures to The Closet Countdown page. So feel free to check them out!

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A Dream Deferred…Is Liberating

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What happens to a dream deferred?

– Langston Hughes

I am itching to “make it” as a travel writer. By “make it” I mean make money (even though I know it’s not about the money). I go places. Maybe not across the world with one backpack and a laptop. But I love road trips and I see adventure everywhere. And I want to share it through writing and fun photos. Lately, I’ve been researching travel writers and I even set up a skeleton profile on Matador.com. But every time I went to the page I felt something was “off”. Something inside me just wasn’t flowing into the travel articles I was writing attempting to write – even as practice.

So I unplugged from my life, did a few sun salutations, and searched my soul to find that nagging feeling. In minutes, I found clarity. This is not the time for me to be a travel writer. Oh, I know…”you gotta reach for your dreams while you can” but how can I reach for some of them when I’m bogged down in an attic half full of junk? My biggest dream is to live a minimalist lifestyle so that I can spend more time spreading sunshine. I want to get better at being a loving person (I have so far to go on this one). I want to live my goals and “do my thing” without any nagging voices inside me.

I need minimalism for my soul as well as my surroundings.

I wrote “Travel Writer” on my list of someday projects, closed my browser tabs telling me how to be a better travel writer, and exhaled. It felt so good. Like I had been carrying extra weight in my life’s backpack that I had not noticed. I went through a box of giveaway stuff with new zeal and pleasure.

I don’t know what happens to a dream deferred. But I’m going to continue on my simplicity quest to find out. This is my dream for now. Thank you for letting me share it with you. Cheers!

Offbeat Advice

I love people who make lists. I don’t mean grocery lists or things I need to do today. Big stuff. Like “10 Things Every Blogger Needs to Know about WordPress” or something like that. I try but I’m terrible at it. Someday, I’ll come up with my personal list of minimalist tips, or laws of simplicity. But for now, I love reading other people’s lists.

My favorite man on the planet shared an article with me the other day that touched my little minimalist soul. It’s a great list written by Marc Chernoff (from a Blog titled Marc and Angel Hack Life). When you see it, you’ll understand why I like it (ahem…see #3 below). It appeals to my love for simplicity and writing and living a full, fabulous life. It’s slightly quirky and endearing. I hope you like it too…

7 Pieces of Offbeat Advice I Wish I Knew Sooner

1.  Wisdom is not about knowing all the answers.

It’s not the answers you get from others, or even the ones you formulate, that will help you in the long run.  It’s the simple questions you ask yourself on a regular basis that will determine the type of person you become.  Wisdom is about asking the right questions.

Regardless of your age or stature, life is always filled with unanswered questions.  It is the courage to ask these questions and adventurously seek the answers that continues to give life meaning.  Have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your heart.  Try to love the unanswered questions themselves.  Do not demand all the answers; they cannot be given to you because you have to live through them.  It is a matter of experiencing everything.  Only when you do will you gradually, perhaps without even noticing it, find yourself arriving at the answers you seek.  (I discuss this process in more detail in the Goals and Success chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

2.  You have to do lots of things you aren’t good at to grow.

If you do what you have always done, you will get the same results you have been getting.  If you want to stunt your growth and feel stuck in the same place forever, keep making excuses.  If, on the other hand, you want to stop feeling trapped, you have to start doing things that make you uncomfortable, things you aren’t very good at.  You have to streeeetch yourself.

There is no excuse for remaining stuck.  There is no excuse for doing the same things over and over again.  Life is too short.  Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.

The day is rapidly approaching when the risk to remain perched in your nest is far more detrimental than the risk it takes to fly.  Fly!  Spread your wings.  Start now.  What a disgrace it would be for you to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of your full potential.

3.  Everything you own has an emotional cost of ownership.

No matter what you own there is a maintenance cost.  We can speak in dollars – insurance, taxes and interest.  Or even in time – cleaning, updating and protecting.  But the hardest maintenance cost for most people is simply sentimental value.

We transfer our feelings and memories onto an object and decide we can’t let go because we’ll risk losing the feeling or memory.  Before long, we become surrounded by these visual reminders of our memories and no longer have room to make new ones.  It’s hard to move forward in your life when your past is crowding your present.

The answer, of course, is to get rid of some of this stuff.  But that’s way easier said than done.  We often need to be compelled to do this with a move or a lifestyle change.  Imagine how much richer life would be if you moved the junk out and made room for new opportunities instead of grudgingly making room only when it was forced upon you.  (Read The Joy of Less.)

4.  Flaws are beautiful and likeable.

Nothing is perfect; the world itself is not perfect.  But we’re all here living for our dreams and each other, trying the very best we can.  And that’s what makes us so darn beautiful.  The little things about you that you think are your flaws are often the reasons others fall in love with you.

Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you.  The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

5.  The things you do for fun can pay the bills if you do them right.

Work, if it is interesting, is a stimulant.  It’s worry and a lack of interest in what you’re doing that drains and discourages you.  Every one of us should have our hobbies and side interests – as many as we can handle efficiently and happily.  Our interests should never be allowed to lag or get cold so that all enthusiasm and passion is wasted.  Each day can be a success if you feed your interests as graciously as they feed you.

Happiness is found where interests and capabilities intersect.  If you do what you love and then master it so you can do it much better than anyone else you know, it is entirely possible to make a living from it.  Even better, you will not get tired out from working when your work interests you.  The key is to find the point at which what you love, what you’re good at, and what people will pay for, intersect.

6.  Some of the most unpleasant people just need a little love.

Provide support when it makes sense, even when people are cold and unfriendly.  Some people are rude and complain as a way of crying for help.  They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as attacks rather than requests.

Show a little love and concern.  Do something nice for them.  Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders in certain situations.  Resist the urge to judge or assume.  It’s hard to offer compassion when you assume you have them figured out.  Let them know they are not alone.  People overcome the forces of negative emotions, like anger and hatred, when the counter-forces of love and support are in full effect.  (Read The Mastery of Love.)

7.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing at all.

Sometimes you need to be alone… not to be lonely, but to enjoy some free time just breathing and being YOU.

In order to be one with your relationships and life’s work, you have to turn away from the busyness of the world for a while.  You need to find solitude to refuel.  You must become so alone that you withdraw into your innermost self.  You must do nothing at all, except to be still with the moment.

You need to ponder your successes and failures in seclusion; you need the sunshine and the moonlight to warm you without companions to distract you, without the ongoing banter, face to face with your inner core, with only the sound of your heartbeat for company.

To read the full article (and to be able to click on links the author included in the original) please click here.

Thanks for walking with me in my simplicity quest. Cheers!

The Closet Countdown: Weekly Update #1

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It’s been a week since I started The Closet Countdown. I decided to revive my running and do some part-time nanny work at the same time. Um. Should have included a few more sport items and probably could live without the “nice” dress I included “just in case” I needed it. Oh well. I’m learning.

I found a top I thought I loved but really I just kinda liked it because it coordinated with my other stuff. Decided to let it go. Now I’m living on 54 items. Figuring out how to “make it” on “just 54 items” feels very much like a first world problem.

My easy-grab and wear-anywhere favorite is my black Merrell Lily dress. By far. Hands down. No question about it. Hell, after this is over, I might just sell the rest of my clothes, buy more Lily dresses, and go from there. I wore it for a Fourth of July event as well as a casual memorial service. Even though I rave about the Lily, I do wish it had one thing: pockets. Perhaps with all the time I’ll make for myself by getting rid of stuff (including other, unfinished craft projects) I’ll make some modifications. Or why not dream big? Design my own line of minimalist travel clothing? First the junk, then we’ll see. 🙂

As I explore minimalism and figure out new ways to simplify my life, I re-learn over and over again that it’s about balance. Too much stuff is a pain to take care of. Too little can create different problems. Like needing to wash laundry more often. I hate running such a small load but I need my clothes to not smell like my morning run. Or the hours on the trampoline playing superhero robots. I don’t mind hand washing stuff in the shower but that’s kind of a pain too when I’m trying to make my shower time quicker. Like I said, first world problems…

It’s been a good week. I’m still glad I’m doing this because I’m learning quite a bit about myself and my choices.

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate you and your time. Cheers!

P.S. If you want to read previous posts (and see a few pics) please check out The Closet Countdown page.

Minimalism and What We Leave Behind

20130707-140800.jpgOn the road in my treasured Jeep Cherokee. Just me and my Lily. Somewhere between two small Texas towns. The AC is out. Again. (It’s a long story). Warm air rushes around me as I head toward my cousin’s memorial service. It’s my favorite white noise. Sometimes I put my arm out the window and play with the wind. Up. Down. Up. Down.

I can’t hear my phone if I get a call or a text. For about an hour it’s just me, my Jeep, the wind on my skin, and the road ahead. Time to think and process where I’m going and what I’m doing. Not just the memorial service but all of it.

My mind wanders  to conversation with a well-meaning friend about how I should keep my childhood artwork because it might be nice to display some at my funeral someday. My response was self-righteous and inconsiderate. Pssht. I’m a minimalist. I don’t keep anything. But she didn’t mean keep everything from childhood. She actually helped give me some boundaries in my quest for simplicity. My apology was a little late and a lot lame. I should have listened better. Been kinder in my response…

At the little church where we gather to honor and say farewell to my cousin I stare at the photos and things he left behind and my mind wanders again. I said goodbye to my father in the same church more than twenty years ago. I’ve since said goodbye to his three siblings there as well. I inherited things from all of them. Things. Stuff. But they left behind so much more: stories, kindness, an appreciation for hard work, and a deep love for people and Texas. I have no greater inheritance.

It’s a small service. My cousin was a natural minimalist. He lived on a small ranch in a small cabin. He fought illness and social stereotypes while training horses. People take turns standing up and telling stories about him. “He was kind.” “He loved people and animals with all of his heart.” “Even when in pain, he had so much joy.” My favorite words are “If you knew Larry, you loved him.”

And like a flash of sublime light it hits me. In seconds, several moments blend into that tiny church. My conversation with my friend about saving stuff for my funeral. Driving in my Jeep. The pictures of Larry. His saddle. Memories of my dad. My aunts. My uncle. The words. The beautiful, sweet words that people said about my cousin.

For just a few seconds I get it. All of it. Life and what is important is incredibly clear. And I want nothing more than to love on the people around me, shower the world in sunshine, and leave behind more kindness than nicknacks.

The drive home is hotter. I don’t mind. The wind dries my tears and the ice water by my side keeps me cool. I’m going back to my collection of things with a new perspective. My heart is full of what matters more than my Jeep, or the heat, or the road ahead…

Thank you for traveling this path with me, dear reader. The AC doesn’t always work but the road remains a wonderful teacher. Cheers!