April 30, 2012 § 6 Comments
I’ve been without a cell phone for so long now that I hardly remember what it was like to have one. I’ve enjoyed the cost savings, and have found that our circumstances really only require one cell phone for our whole family – and it doesn’t have to be mine.
The problem I’ve been having lately, strictly from a minimalist perspective, is that when we hit the road, trail or beach, we cart along all of these things: A photo camera, my Flip camera for videos, one or two birding guides, George’s cell phone, an iPod for music and a GPS for geocaching. Sometimes we forget one of these items, causing much stress and anguish. Other times the batteries die, causing anger, frustration and swearing.
The upshot is that I’m thinking that my modern mode of minimalism might make me a candidate for a smartphone. A smartphone would allow me to have all of these things in one compact unit.
I bristle at the idea of sending any more of my hard-earned dollars to the House of Jobs, and I reeeallly hate the idea of a monthly fee for the dubious privilege of having a phone that seems just so consumery. But I love the idea of having just the one thing. It seems more minimal than what I’m currently doing. In fact, when I was playing with George’s sister’s iPhone at the birthday dinner, taking photos, videos and getting names for the constellations (coolest thing ever!) on one screen, I found myself really liking it for its simplicity.
I also really like the idea of Instagram. That sounds like fun, and it could be good for the blog. Right now, uploading photos is such a chore that you’ve probably noticed that I stopped doing it altogether.
So what’s a modern minimalist to do? Succumb to the consumer trappings found in iPhones, Droids, Noids or whatever phones are out there? Or be the last remaining non-smartphone user on the planet?
I would tell you to call me with your answers, but, well, I don’t have a phone.
April 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I fully subscribe to the idea put forth in that Waylon Jennings lyric: “I’ve got the right to disappear.”
But I also have the right to come back. And here I am!
I took a little unannounced hiatus from blogging because, truly, I was just so very into living my life. My fortieth birthday has come and gone. Tax season left me a bit poorer but for the most part unscathed. Family visited. Some beloved people in my life have died, others have been born and one dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. I had some minor health issues that are very close to being resolved. There’s been a a boom in my freelance business.
But through it all, I have to report that it has been such a blessing to live in a clean and uncluttered space, to be able to eat the plant-based diet that keeps me healthy (although the birthday weekend did find me chowing on four lamb momos at the local Himalayan joint – savory!) and to have the free time to run, walk, hike, bird and cook.
When I first started exploring minimalism it felt a bit gimmicky. Let’s de-clutter the closet, let’s take our own packages to the grocery, let’s eliminate plastic bags, spend less, make our own food, grow our own food, cook our own food, eat our own food, etc. and so on…
But now that I have been on dedicated path for all this time, none of it feels affected or forced. I don’t think twice about sending unused items to Goodwill. But I do think five or six times about buying things! It’s become effortless — second nature even — to research products to make sure they are safe, non-toxic and as cruelty free (to animals and humans) as possible. Exercising, sharing a meal, reading a good book, feeding my backyard birds – all have become the most rewarding ways for me to spend my time that don’t tax my anxieties, my wallet or the planet.
Life happens whether or not we’re organized, centered and serene. And I am here to provide my testimony that when a simple, deliberate life becomes your top priority, all of the difficulties, changes and challenges become much easier to manage. Wanting less, spending less, owning less has given me more than I ever imagined possible.
March 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’ve stumbled upon a few things over the past few weeks that have just thrilled me to no end, and I’d like to offer them up to you…
Sandwich Solution: The kids make their lunches every morning and this usually consists of some kind of sandwich or wrap. Since we don’t use Ziploc bags at all, I’ve been stressing over the best way to contain these things for clean transport within their lunch boxes. They’ve been using wax paper (fairly acceptable, but I’m not sure if it’s recyclable), aluminum foil (totally wasteful, expensive and ridiculous and it drives me absolutely bonkers when I catch them doing it), re-usable sandwich bags (never, ever big enough and then the kids lose them anyway – another thing that sends me over the edge), and plastic wrap (I hate this option. Every time I look at plastic wrap I can only envision some poor, furry sea animal being choked to death).
So you can see why this was an issue. Apparently I have some sort of sandwich wrap mania.
It occurred to me while just sitting around one day that the kids can wrap their lunches in one of our cloth napkins, use the napkin instead of the paper ones at school and then bring the napkin home to be washed. Problem solved.
I can’t believe it took me this long to think of it.
Cereal Solution: If it wasn’t for the kids I would never, ever buy boxed cereal. It’s expensive, marginally nutritious (even the “healthy” ones are suspect) and the packaging is ever so wasteful. In fact, I don’t usually buy the cereal, their dad does, and I bite my tongue every time he walks into the house with nine boxes of pandapoop puffs or whatever it is that was on sale.
I decided to combat this cereal menace head on, and I found these two marvelous recipes:
Vegan Skinny Bitch Granola: A bit time consuming to make, but it is SO delicious. I have been quadrupling the recipe (takes the same amount of time, really) and there’s usually enough to last for about a week and a half. They eat less because it is so much more dense and filled with goodies than their cereal and I don’t have to toss out five cardboard boxes a week – which makes me happy.
Vegan Overnight Oats: This takes three minutes to whip up and the kids nearly lost their minds over how good this dish is. Big score. Just make a batch before you go to bed, stick it in the fridge and voila! Breakfast.
So we still have some cereal in the house, but we’ve cut waaaay back, and I am feeling all the more relieved for it.
Bread Machine: I had a United mileage plus credit card with a bunch of miles on it. It cost me $60 a year for the privilege of earning miles that are in no way useful for air travel, so I decided to shut it down. But before I did, I spent the balance of my miles on a Cuisinart Bread Machine and it’s the best thing ever.
The kids, with their crazy sandwich needs, were going through at least two bags of bread per week. We never had enough bread, were always on the verge of running out of bread, buying bread, thinking about bread, needing bread… Enough! Now that I have the bread machine I spend about 5 minutes every other day baking a fresh loaf of whole grain bread and we always have bread! I haven’t really crunched the numbers to determine the total cost savings we’ve enjoyed, but we sure love not having to run out to buy bread all the time. Plus, it’s just a few less plastic baggies out there murdering otters, or whatever other mayhem plastic baggies seem to cause.
My Yoga Online: I love me some yoga. I love yoga classes, yoga clothes, pretty pictures of yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga! But since we’ve been on lockdown to pay off the mortgage, I haven’t wanted to spend the $15 per yoga session at my favorite local studio.
In January, I signed up for myyogaonline.com at a special “New Year” rate. Now I have access to hundreds of yoga classes, yoga tips, wellness articles and more for about $5.80 per month. Admittedly it’s not quite the same as being in a room full of people with an instructor, but I can do as much or as little yoga as I want on my schedule. It’s been a wonderful experience to be able to come home from a hike and pop in a 20 minute cool down, or to spend a free hour brushing up on my raven – whenever I feel like it.
That’s the news that’s fit to print from Type A Minimalist! I’d love to hear about the delighful things you’ve recently discovered.
February 2, 2012 § 10 Comments
I have joyfully embraced my status as a nobody, and now, friends, I am also ready to embrace my status as a total cliché.
I have suspected this for months. I visit a lot of simplicity, minimalist and green blogs and I’m finding that my fellow bloggers are beating me to the punch on several topics. (I’m lookin’ at you minhus! I was SO going to write about coconut oil…)
This isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it reinforces a lot of my decisions and also helps me feel connected to a community of like-minded souls when I often feel like I’m on an island surrounded consumer-infested waters.
I also had my fair share of belly laughs when I watched Portlandia for the first time and realized, yep, I do all of that, too. (I did stop at asking for the chicken’s name when I ordered it, but I have asked about the farm. I also may have screamed “bike rights” once or twice while pedaling to the store. There may be a bird or two on some of my things.)
So I’m a nobody and a cliché, and that’s fine with me. If you’re looking to dip a toe into minimalism, here are some things you’ll probably find yourself doing at least once:
- You’ll run the numbers to see if you can get rid of one car.
- You’ll make your own toothpaste.
- You’ll make your own laundry detergent.
- You’ll clean, and clean, and de-clutter and clean. Then you’ll start all over again.
- You’ll bake your own bread.
- You’ll attempt to minimize your wardrobe by “Garanimal-izing” all of your basic pieces.
- You’ll walk or bike to the grocery store.
- You’ll take a yoga class.
- You’ll meditate.
- You’ll create a plan to eliminate all of your debt, including having a yard sale where you decide to sell everything in your home.
- You’ll shop at the farmer’s market.
- You’ll silently judge others as (insert sneer here) consumers. Then, you’ll chide yourself for not being more compassionate.
- You’ll go meat free on Mondays. Then you’ll go veg. Then you’ll go vegan. You’ll swoon over homemade hummus.
- You’ll obsess over tiny homes.
- You’ll start a blog.
- You’ll write an e-book about something.
- You’ll consider living with just 100 things, wearing the same dress every day for a year, or eliminating all unnecessary shopping forever.
- You’ll try to repurpose everything you bring home.
- You’ll read labels on everything to make sure it’s natural, local and not made in a sweatshop. You’ll forgive all or one of these offenses if the item you want is especially a) delicious b) unique or c) adorable. You’ll beat yourself up about it later. Then you’ll forgive yourself because you’re doing “so well” in other areas.
- You’ll freak out over thezerowastehome.com. No one in your circle will share your enthusiasm.
- You’ll compost. This may or may not include worms.
- You’ll re-asses all of your beauty products and eliminate everything but soap and eyeliner. Then you’ll go out and find a bunch of all-natural alternatives that may or may not work as well as your original stash.
- You’ll read Walden, The Story of Stuff, Your Money or Your Life, Born to Run, The Four Hour Body, and every post by Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net. (You should read The Freedom Manifesto, by Tom Hodgkinson.)
- You’ll watch Forks Over Knives, Maxed Out, The Story of Stuff, Supersize Me, Who Killed the Electric Car, Zero Impact Man and Dive!
- You’ll seriously consider dumpster diving for a meal. (See Dive! above). Someone will talk you out of it. Thank them.
- You’ll breathe more, panic less, find beauty in small things, discover your own path to health and wellness, spend less time shopping and generally just feel more in control of your destiny. (Hopefully this last one will stick).
It’s OK to be cliché! Those of us who seek a more peaceful existence will try all of these things because many wise people who have gone before us have done the same — and some of these things really work.
If being a cliché means that I work less and live more, that I waste less and appreciate more and spend less but have more, then slap a sticker on me and call me a cliché. I’ll proudly wear it on the one organic cotton T-shirt (with a bird on it) I still own as I ride my bike to the farmers market.
December 14, 2011 § 11 Comments
There’s not much clutter left in my house, and I am definitely feeling the benefits of more free time, an organized space and the ability to find pretty much anything in the first place I look. These simple gifts are not to be trivialized. Not only is my load lighter, but my mood is lighter. There is an indescribable peace that comes from getting your shit together.
But something interesting has happened – and it was totally unconscious (until I put two and two together yesterday morning in a green tea-induced a-ha moment.) I’m going to share it with you now in the hopes that your comments can offer some insight into what may very well be an active case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I’ve taken up running. (This is not the issue. Be patient.) I’ve always been a passionate walker and hiker, but I gave up drinking any alcohol in November (this is also not the issue) and I have found that without my nightly wine I have an excess of energy. Not manic energy or anxious energy, just alert, vibrant energy – and it’s wonderful.
I started running because I also started getting up at 6 a.m. (not the issue) after the last time change and after I quit the wine. It’s chilly at 6 a.m. so instead of walking I just sort of bounced around my route in order to stay warm and that turned into running. I am now running up to three miles, three to four days a week. And it’s wonderful.
I noticed on my run that there is a lot of litter in my town, (wait for it…) so every morning when I head out for my jog, I take a plastic bag and pick up all the litter on my route. I’ve been filling the equivalent of one regular-sized trash bag per week with Starbuck’s cups, Taco Bell bags, McDonald’s wrappers, liquor bottles, cigarette packs, clothing and grocery bags. (There is a LOT of trash in my town!) I then retire to my home – which is on the second floor of a downtown building with a view of a parking lot, a hair salon, a train depot and an Irish pub — and look out with great satisfaction over my trash-free vista.
I imagine being able to run even farther so that I can broaden my trash pickup to all of the neighborhoods in my town. I want to inspire others to do the same by creating a “Litter Gitter” (working title) patrol with the help of my Town Council. I envision myself on the front page of our paper with a title that reads “Local Woman Says It’s Cool to Be ‘Trashy’” with pithy quotes from me encouraging other runners to grab garbage on their cool down walks…
I’ve Type A’d all over this thing.
So my issue is that I think I just transferred my need to constantly clean and organize my home to a need to clean and organize the entire world.
Is this a problem? Discuss.
December 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
Um, yeah. So when you’re de-cluttering it is important to make sure you don’t throw out a project your kid worked on for several hours and is due after the holiday break.
You see, our kids have never, ever had homework assigned over a holiday weekend. That’s why, when I did my clean sweep of my 10 year-old’s backpack over Thanksgiving break (while his dad took him to the movies), I tossed out a map of the United States that was meticulously labeled with the state names and capitals. I assumed it was a project he’d done in class, so into the bin it went!
I forgot all about it until yesterday when George returned from dropping the kids off at school and told me that our youngest had lost the school project that was due, and, boy, had he really lit into him. We’ve been having some issues with the kids not being organized and losing their stuff, so when he lost something yet again, George just went sort of nuts – the way a parent goes nuts when they’ve already gone nuts over the same topic 497 times.
Turns out that George had him complete the project early while I was out of the home on one of my jaunts to the corporate office. I had no idea that any of that had happened, which is why I assumed that it was an in-class project he had just brought home for us to see.
So poor little guy gets lambasted for being disorganized and it’s really my fault.
Cue the guilt.
George went in to talk to the teacher about what had happened, and it turns out that she extended the deadline to Friday anyway. Whew.
Fortunately this kid is pretty easygoing and he took it in stride. He just re-did it and handed it in this morning. It looked great. I still feel awful.
I have apologized profusely to both dad and son, and I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t throw other people’s stuff out without checking with them first. (Mostly.)
Have you had any de-cluttering mishaps?
November 16, 2011 § 4 Comments
On this journey to find calm in the chaos I’ve made some big moves. I can now officially claim that I eat a vegan diet. I have slashed my spending by epic proportions, and have bought down the principle on my mortgage enough to be able to re-finance to lower my monthly payment by $1600 – even though I’m technically underwater. My family has successfully survived with one car and one cell phone for four people. I hate how my hair looks, but I’m pretty ok with the fact that I have not colored it in 13 months. I actually turned down a freelance job earlier this year because it didn’t sound like fun.
November 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
At the beginning this avian love affair was all about me. I had a Type A need to locate, identify and categorize every bird I saw. I read books about birds. I went to all the birding hot spots I could find. I watched DVDs and nature shows to learn everything I could about my fine feathered friends. (I still do.)
October 26, 2011 § 8 Comments
October 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
One of the simplest ways I’ve found to save money is to turn off the lights when I’m leaving a room.
Just by employing this very simple practice (a little fanatically, I have to admit), I have lowered my monthly PG&E bill from an average of $150 per month to an average of $100 per month.
The sacrifices with this simplifying tactic are virtually nil. I do not have to read by candlelight. I have not stubbed my toes because I stubbornly refuse to flip the switch into the upward position. I have not been attacked by closet monsters. I just turn off the lights when I leave a room, and I turn off lights in uninhabited rooms when I discover them.
I’ve also gotten the kids in on the fun, having explained to them that every time they leave a light on a baby polar bear dies.
They know I’m joking (they’re 10 and 12 and pretty snarky – I wouldn’t recommend this tactic on a tenderhearted 4 year-old). However, I did get their attention and they are much better about extinguishing the illumination when they leave.
Plus, there’s the added benefit of saving energy. Why have lights burning when no one is using them? Seems silly when you think about it.
I’m also more mindful and appreciative of the fact that I can just brighten a room at my whim. Electric light on demand is a luxury the vast majority of the now 7 billion of us will never enjoy.
Just because something seems commonplace to us doesn’t mean that we should take it for granted. It’s a privilege to live this way, and I’m happy that this simple pleasure is something for which I can express gratitude.
Turning off my lights turned me on to a whole new way of seeing my little world.
Now go turn off some lights!