Minimalist Monday: The First Load

Minimalist Mondays are dedicated to finding love, adventure, and joy in everyday living through the pursuit of a more simplistic lifestyle. By allowing only what is useful and meaningful into our lives and letting go of that which ties us down, we are better able to live a life of purpose, both for ourselves and for others.

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.” – Plato

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Happy Minimalist Monday everyone! It is the first Monday of 2014 and my garage project is underway. My first car load of things has been taken to charity. Yay! This first trip was easy for me because I took things that had already been cleared from my house and marked for charity. However, I did not load as much as I had originally intended into my car because it was a 5 degrees outside and I was freezing.  Even so, I was able to fit about 30 smaller items such as coffee mugs and VHS tapes into my trunk. Because this project will take months, I may not post pictures every Monday but I will report on how I am progressing on my number one black hole. By keeping you up to date on the progress of my garage I hope to both hold myself accountable and inspire you as you pick areas of your home that you would like to free of excess stuff.

On my last Minimalist Monday Post, Minimalist Monday: Here’s My Garage! ( and my front entry to compare) , I suggested that if you are starting a de-cluttering/simplifying project to start slow. One great way to do this is to pick one item a day to clear from your home.  Choose just one little object that you never use and doesn’t hold any meaning to you. If you look around I bet you will be surprised at how many objects are in your home that you never take notice of. If you are not sure that you can part with your possessions, pack them up for a couple of months and see if you ever need them or even think about them. If you go six months without giving the items a second thought, it’s time to donate (smile).For extra tips on this process, the blog 365 Less Things at http://www.365lessthings.com/ is a great motivational resource for trimming down possessions.

Because it is the 1st week of the New Year and hundreds of after holiday sales are going on, I should add a second suggestion. I challenge you not to purchase anything new to bring into your home. We all have things we need to purchase or we will be wearing shirts and socks with holes in them. What I am talking about is stuff we all are tempted buy because it is cool, the latest and greatest, or because it is on sale. Everything we purchase will one day end up in the trash and in landfills. If we don’t put it there ourselves, one day someone else will. Things don’t last forever, but the non-biodegradable materials such as plastic that they are made of pretty much do. Becoming more of a Minimalist and living a more simplistic lifestyle will not only help us live more meaningful lives by having fewer possessions to tie us down, it will also ease the impact we have on the environment for future generations. How’s that for a Buy One, Get One deal?

If you are interested in more reading on the true cost of purchasing an object you may enjoy this blog by Leo Babauta http://mnmlist.com/the-true-cost-of-stuff/.

If you have any stories, thoughts or ideas on how to live a more simplistic and Minimalist lifestyle, I would love to hear from you!

Until next time enjoy the freedom of living a simpler life,

Laura

Staycation, all I Ever Wanted!

reading and tea
reading and tea

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” Mark Black

Ah, vacation. Mine is almost over and it has been wonderful. I never take vacations and time off for granted. I spent almost 20 years never having one, so I am always grateful for the rest and time to re- balance. As I was thinking about how I would like to spend my last weekend of freedom, the word staycation popped into my mind. Whoever came up with that word ( probably a mom on a budget) was a genius.

Enjoying life doesn’t have to always include exotic getaways, large amounts of money and planning. Often small things and little pleasures bring the greatest satisfaction. Staycations are a great way to wind down after a busy holiday season. They give us the chance to re-connect with our families or with ourselves after weeks of preparations, celebrations, and extra activities.

Staycations are easily tailored to you and your family. I have known people who camp with their families in their backyard or basement. Other friends have had movie marathons complete with theater style popcorn and snacks with lots of blankets to snuggle. One of my personal favorite staycations is investigating new restaurants and activities in my own town. Whatever staycation you create, make sure it is one that will give you the opportunity to relax, rejuvenate, and restore a sense of balance in your life.

My staycation will include catching up on my reading while enjoying some tea; enjoying a Charlie Chan mystery mini marathon with my kitties nearby ; a good workout and some time in the hot tube and saunas at my club; some card and candle making for an upcoming birthday; catching up with a couple of friends; and brunch at a new restaurant, yet to be determined. I can hardly wait to start the weekend.

Here are some tips for planning your staycation:

  • Determine what it is you or your family want to do
  • get any supplies or groceries you may need
  • Take care of chores and errands so that you can enjoy your freedom
  • Step away from electronics and clocks. Enjoy the present moment and don’t worry about time
  • .Be flexible if something comes up you want to try
  • Enjoy

What do you like to do to make your free time special? I would love to hear from you!

If you would like further reading on staycations, you may enjoy this blog from The Simply Luxurious Life http://www.thesimplyluxuriouslife.com/why-not-enjoy-staycation/.

Until next time,

Laura

Minimalist Monday: Here’s My Garage! ( and my front entry to compare)

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Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand. We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.” – Henry David Thoreau

Happy Minimalist Monday, everyone! Ready or not, it two days before the New Year and the garage awaits my attention. I am excited to move forward with this project. De-cluttering is a perfect project to begin at the New Year as well as an important step in simplifying life and becoming more of a Minimalist. As you may know from my previous Minimalist Monday posts, much of what you are seeing here in the garage is stuff that belonged to my mom. I wasn’t sure what to do with it and since I need a sense of order to function on a daily basis, it all ended up out here. I know I cannot hope to become more of a minimalist with my black holes lurking out of sight. Therefore, 2014 is the year I start clearing the unseen clutter in my home and in my mind. I have to confess that I felt so vulnerable posting the before pics of my garage I felt the need to post other pics of my front room entry so that can see how I actually live within the walls of my house. 

Garages are interesting things. As I walk through my neighborhood I get glimpses of many of my neighbor’s garages. Some are so clean and organized you could eat off the floor. Other neighbors have turned their garages into extended living and entertaining areas so that when I walk by I see people sitting in their garages listening to music and drinking beers. (I do not live in a neighborhood that has strict covenants. I prefer to call it a “free to be me” neighborhood.) Some garages serve as practical work areas with visible projects in various stages of development. Most of the garages I see, however, are in some state of disarray. Many are filled to the brim with so much stuff I am not really sure if you can actually enter them, while others are just cluttered and dingy. My garage is a cross between the overstuffed and dingy. I firmly believe garages, along with other easily hidden places such as closets, basements, and spare bedrooms, are a reflection of our state of mind; at least that has been my observation. Others may disagree.  I do not have the resources at this time to hang drywall, paint the floor, or add cool storage cabinets so I am going for a clean and practical garage. The garage will be used for storage of seasonal garden/yard supplies and a few select holiday decorations that have great personal meaning to me. I may need to hold on to a few items for my nieces until they are able to claim them. Everything else needs to go.

My Plan for January: A Load a Week!

That is to say, every Saturday during the month of January I am taking one car load of stuff to a nearby charity. This is an easy place for me to begin because I actually have several piles of things in my garage that I moved out of the house to go to charity as well as other items in the garage I know I can easily say goodbye to. Going through the easy stuff first should build my confidence and help keep me motivated when I have to start making harder decisions about things from my childhood or my mom’s knick knacks.

If you are planning to join me on your own de-cluttering project, my tip for the week is start small. One closet, one room, one corner of the house; that is all you need to focus on at a time. There is no reason to overwhelm yourself with a project. Of course, if you are motivated to tackle everything all at once, go for it! Otherwise, slow and steady will produce amazing results in your home.

I hope you join me in 2014 on a journey to free your home and mind from the clutter that ties us all down. If you have any de- cluttering projects in mind to start the year off right, I would love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Laura

Out With the Old and In With the New

The older I become the more I appreciate new beginnings. Each day is a chance to learn more, do more, and be more than the day before. It is an amazing gift. In addition to the opportunity for the daily renewal of self, there are certain times such as birthdays, anniversaries, and of course, the New Year, that magnify our desire to reflect on who we are and what we hope to become.

Over the past several years I have come to look forward to settling down with a cup of tea and a journal to write down my observations about my life over the past year, reflect on what went well in the past 365 days, and what I would like to accomplish in the next 365.

It wasn’t always this way. For many years I celebrated the New Year with remembrances of a few good times and vague resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, and save money. I began to take notice of people who said they didn’t do New Year’s resolutions because resolutions were ineffective and a waste of time. For a few years I allowed myself to fall into the same mindset but it never set well with me. Humans are made to always be evolving into something more.

About six years ago it dawned on me that while resolutions may be a waste of time, goal setting is not. I realized that I should make specific goals for the New Year in late December or early January, follow up on them throughout the year, and then in December do a final reflection and use my old goals as a springboard to set new goals for the year ahead. This shift in how I approach the New Year and goal setting has changed my life for the better. I have lost weight, improved my fitness, made great strides in paying off debt, and finished graduate school by setting specific goals each year.

Here are some of my tips for setting and obtaining specific goals:

  • Be specific in what you want to achieve
  • Be realistic
  • Determine how you are going to measure your success
  • Set a time-table throughout the year to follow-up on your progress
  • Be determined to see you goal through to the end
  • See the vision of what you are hoping to achieve daily
  • Accept that setbacks happen and adjust accordingly
  • Be willing to allow your goals to evolve as time progresses
  • Reflect each year on your successes and areas that are still a work in progress
  • Don’t quit! Re-evaluate, re-adjust, but don’t quit!

I makes me laugh to find the things are great revelations to me are topics other bloggers have been talking about for a while (great minds, and all of that I guess, smile). So in that light, here are two great blogs that may further inspire your New Year goal setting.

http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/12/31/12-powerful-resolutions-you-should-make-every-year/

http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/

Until next time, enjoy creating the New Year you want for yourself!

Laura

The Joy of Family Traditions

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I have been so blessed throughout my life to have a family that truly shares in the joy of Christmas.

One of my favorite family traditions is the annual baking of Christmas cookies with my sister and nieces. Actually, they usually do the baking and I usually supervise. I do allow myself to decorate at least a couple of sugar cookies and the end result of my labors usually has us rolling on the floor trying to wipe the tears from our eyes. Like the year I gave my Santa cookie M&M eyes. Poor Santa looked like he had just been to the eye doctor. This year I had to refrain from the decorating since I am recovering from a virus.  If laughter is good for the soul then we get at least a year’s worth of medicine in one afternoon.

My sister does pass out the cookies to friends and neighbors, but I believe the practical side of baking the cookies is secondary to the time we spend together. In addition to the unbridled laughter, each cookie baking day includes plenty of talking, singing, impromptu dancing, and reminiscing with great fondness, the years my mom (Grandma Jean) was a part of our festivities.

The musical highlight for me is when my sister plays the Bing Crosby Merry Christmas album. The very first time I remember hearing that album I was barely four years old and living at my Grandmother Alice’s house. Every subsequent Christmas of my childhood found Bing playing in the background, a tradition that my sister passed on to her girls. I find great joy in the fact that although my nieces never knew their great Grandmother Alice and their Grandma Jean has been gone for quite some time, they are still connected to the memories of past family Christmases by the music of Bing Crosby.

Family, cookie baking, and Bing; now that’s the stuff a lifetime of memories are made of.

My Christmas wish for you is able to create a memory this holiday that touches your heart. If you have any special Christmas or holiday traditions, I would love to hear from you!

Wishing you the best this holiday season,

Laura

Minimalist Monday: My Black Holes

 Linda Breen Pierce. “Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.”

It’s week three of Minimalist Monday’s, yay! Hopefully you have had a chance to look at some of your possessions and ask yourself some thought-provoking questions on what is truly important to you and what it is time to let go of. I also hope you have had the time to ask yourself what your motivation is for making changes in your home and what you hope to accomplish by living with less stuff.

For me, there are many motivators for living with less. Ultimately, I believe that living with less will give me more freedom to pursue life more fully and leave more time for love, joy and everyday adventure.

I have been working for a little over a year on developing a more Minimalist life style. Many bags of random objects and clothing have gone to charities; I am constantly evaluating what I am using, what I truly love, and what is just taking up space. Most of my home is in much better shape today than it was in 2011. I am by no means done but I feel like I have made great progress in many areas.

Before you think I am in too good of shape you need to know I have three major black holes in my home. Three areas full of stuff. Stuff I don’t know what to do with; stuff that just plain gives me a headache to think about. These areas are full of my mom’s stuff. Either stuff she owned, stuff she saved from my childhood, or stuff she bought for me to remember her by (holiday decorations and such). These areas in order of terror are; the garage, the laundry room, and the downstairs closet.  These areas are conveniently tucked away from the average visitor’s eye, but I know they are there lurking, quietly draining my energy.

January 2014 is going to find me starting with the garage. It is going to be quite the adventure but I am looking forward to the finished product. I promise to by some batteries for May camera so that you can see the progress as I begin my journey. I hope that tackling my garage will inspire you to pick a room or closet in your home to begin working towards a life of living more and owning less.

You may also enjoy this article by Joshua Becker about de-owning from his blog Becoming Minimalist.

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/dont-just-declutter-de-own/

Love, Joy, and a Little Adventure in Holiday Preparations

It is the final weekend before Christmas and if you are like me, there is still a lot to take care of before Tuesday night. With all of the last minute details pulling us in every direction and into every crowed store, even the most selfless person can lose their patience and holiday cheer. As I prepare to do some last minute shopping, here are some ideas I came up with to keep the love and joy of the season close to my heart and perhaps find an everyday adventure as I navigate the crowds.

  • Spread holiday cheer. A smile and a friendly word go a long way this time of year. This can be your holiday gift to countless numbers of people. Consider taking somebody’s cart back to the store, allowing the lady with one small item go ahead of you in line, or letting someone else have the prime parking spot you just scored.
  • Cut yourself some slack. No one can do it all and most of use work well over 40 hours a week. New Years cards can spread just as much cheer as Christmas cards. Your neighbors will enjoy your cookies even more on December 29th when they have had time to digest their holiday dinners. If your presents are in a gift bag instead of a package that took 30 minutes of time and fifteen dollars of ribbon to wrap, it’s OK. Anything that causes you to become bitter or stressed is not worth it and defeats the original intent.
  • Check out the local merchants. Not only are these stores likely to be less crowded than Wal- Mart and Target, the down home atmosphere, unique gifts, and the support it gives the community are well worth it.
  • Take time out and treat yourself. It can be as simple as enjoying a coffee or frozen yogurt, catching a movie, listening to carolers, or driving around and looking at Christmas lights. The important thing is to relax and enjoy the moment amidst of all the hustle and bustle.
  • Do everything with love. No matter what your personal beliefs are, this season is about love.  It is the unconditional love of family, friends, humanity, and of something bigger than ourselves that drives us to celebrate this time of year. Love makes all that we do to get ready for the holidays worthwhile.

Until next time, enjoy your holiday preparations!

LauraImage

Minimalist Monday: What’s Your Motivation?

With 2014 just a few weeks away I know that many of you, like me, are thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions. The New Year is a great chance to make a new start in life. This is the perfect time to get rid of the things that are not serving a purpose in your home or giving your life meaning.

Minimalism is a way of thinking and a way of living. It also requires hands on approach to dealing with the physical things we surround ourselves with. A good place to start on this journey before tossing out any possessions is to ask “what is my motivation?” For some, it may be the joy of opening a closet door and being able to find what you are looking for without digging through piles of clothes and shoes. For others, being able to park both cars in the garage may be the goal. Being free from the upkeep and maintenance that comes from owning many possessions may be what is inspiring you to change. If you are like me, you are looking for a life of that reflects your beliefs and values about what is truly important in life.

This week I challenge you to look around your home and ask yourself what is that is motivating you to want to de-clutter and simplify your life. Hopefully, you will gain some insight into what is important to you and what you would like your home to become. Let me what is motivating you!

Happy Monday!

Laura