First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

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In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…

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Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…

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This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

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Somebody’s excited!

 

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Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

 

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It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.

The Quest for the Chickenpox Shot

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The week before school starts is a crazy time.  I’ve been getting back into the routine of waking up and leaving every morning, packing my lunch, attending training sessions, looking at my caseload, preparing lessons, meeting with co-teachers, and setting up a classroom. It’s definitely a time when I write fewer blog posts and rarely check in on Facebook!

And then, on Wednesday, it occurred to me that I am not the only one in my family who will be going back to school.

Sure, I took Beanie’s IEP over to her new school, as soon as their office opened.  And I wrote their special education department head a lengthy e-mail, explaining all of Beanie’s idiosyncrasies.  But I hadn’t bought a single school supply.  And I hadn’t taken her to get her booster shots.

Vaccines are complicated for us.  When she was 13 months old, Beanie ended up in the hospital with a reaction, after getting the MMR, Chickenpox, and three other shots.  After that, we decided (with our new doctor’s blessing) to only give her one shot at a time, and to space them at least a month apart.

This plan worked well.  She got a slight fever for a few days after her MMR booster, but nothing as serious as what we had encountered the previous time.  Everything went wonderfully until only the Polio and Chickenpox vaccines were remaining.  When we showed up at the doctor’s office to get these, they were out of both.

They continued to be out of both everytime we came in, for a year.

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When we moved to Houston, I forgot about getting the boosters, until it was mentioned when I signed Beanie up for school this year.  Students can be sent home on the first day if they are not up to date on their shots, so I wanted to take care of this right away.

The first issue was getting ahold of Beanie’s shot records.  We had lost our copy in the move, and her school records were in limbo for some time.  On Thursday, I called and learned that they had arrived at our new school, so I came in and got a copy.  After working until 6:00, doing home visits, I rushed home and scooped up Beanie, life jacket and all, and drove her to the clinic, which closes at 8:00 on Thursdays.

We made excellent time, arriving at 7:30.  On the way there, Beanie found her smelly markers in the car and gave herself a cat face.  She decided that she was Meowth, the Pokemon.

I darted into the clinic, with Meowth still wearing her life jacket, and handed the receptionist our shot records.  She eyeballed us skeptically, then said that those two shots were the only two they didn’t have in stock. Frustrated, I asked if there was anywhere we could go, and she produced a list of clinics in the area that would accept our insurance.

One clinic was nearby, so we drove to the high rise building that housed it.  Beanie squealed in excitement, and whispered, “It’s a hospital!”  It’s been a few years since her frequent hospital visits, but Beanie still remembers how much she loved that place.

We ran into the building, only to find that the clinic was closed.  As we made our way across the parking lot, and into the neighboring CVS store, Beanie yelled, “I need to go to the hospital!”

CVS had neither shot in stock, but the pharmacist recommended Walmart and Walgreen’s.  The Walmart was a block away, so I plopped Meowth (still wearing her life jacket) into a cart and ran inside.  After a long wait, the pharmacist said they were out of the shots until the next afternoon.

Walgreen’s was across the street, and they had the Polio but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  However, their pharmacist told us that we needed a prescription to get shots from a drug store.

So, admitting defeat, we headed home.

As I drove past Beanie’s school, I slowed down and considered stopping to find out who her teacher was.  I decided against this, as it was 9:00 and we needed to be getting home.  However, my pause attracted the attention of the police officer in the parking lot, and he pulled out behind me and followed me to the marina.  As soon as we were in the gates, he turned on his lights.

The very polite officer introduced himself and, after verifying that I wasn’t a criminal, wrote me a warning for a tail light being out.  This made Beanie’s day, and she couldn’t stop talking about the police officer who “rescued” us!

So back to the drawing board.

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On Friday, I made my way down the list of clinics.  The clinic in the “hospital,” had the Polio shot but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  The health departments on the list did not accept private insurance, but they recommended the Redi Clinics that happen to be located in HEB grocery stores.

I Googled Redi Clinics and made my way down that list.  After encountering a few that did not have the Chickenpox vaccine, I found one that was getting a new shipment that afternoon.  I figured we were golden!

I got home at 5:00 and promptly called that clinic.  They were out already!  I was finally able to locate a clinic two suburbs over, that had both shots.  Scooping up the life jacket-clad friend (no cat face this time!), we pointed our Volvo toward Friendswood.

Beanie was fascinated to see a doctor’s office in the middle of a grocery store, and she anxiously awaited her shots.  (She had been practicing with her Doc McStuffins doctor kit).  We were in good company–the waiting area was overrun with kids waiting to get shots.  We bought a soda from the nearby check-out and enjoyed it until we were called.

Beanie was beginning to lose heart, when the nurse finally called her name.  While she eagerly took her place on the examining table, and readied her leg, the doctor showed me Beanie’s shot record, as well as the immunization requirements for Texas schools.  It turns out that Beanie does not even require anymore Chickenpox boosters!  After all that….but I was relieved, since she had a reaction last time.

After learning that Beanie was tipping the scales at a whopping 41 pounds, it was finally time.  Beanie got the shot in her leg, since she’s still so tiny.  She gritted her teeth, then smiled when she got her band-aid and a sucker from the “big girl” box.

As we were leaving, she yelled out to the doctor and nurse, “Thank you for the shot and band-aid!”

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Lesson #11: The Internet (It’s Complicated)

Note:  This post is one of my 35 Lessons in 35 Years.

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It is interesting that this is the next lesson that I will be talking about, because it has been something that has been on my mind a great deal lately.

I have a complicated relationship with the Internet.

Two year ago, I gave up Facebook.  I found it sucking up my time, and I found myself drawn into non-productive political debates.  I desperately sought connection, and on Facebook I felt alone in a crowd.  So I deleted my account.

But that doesn’t mean I was never online.  I began e-mailing a number of other bloggers and developed some very close friendships.  And through these friendships, I found the courage to make some major changes in my life.  In that basement, I spend the vast majority of my time online.

And that was okay.

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After we moved, I found that I was kind of at a loss with my writing.  My personal journey became more private, and I found my inbox filling up with unanswered e-mails.  I spent more time reading, more time looking within.

A number of my blogging friends quit writing their blogs, and I wondered if this was the next step–if it were the “right” thing to do, when I reached a certain level of “maturity.”  I began to see my time online as a vice, and went through a cycle of forced digital breaks.

And that was okay too.

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And now, I kind of feel like I’ve reached a balance for the moment.  I’ve rejoined Facebook, so that I can check in with everyone, and save the more occasional in-depth discussions for e-mail.  I’m happy with the frequency of my blog posts, and I’m glad that y’all have come back to restart the discussions!

What works, is what works for me in this moment.

And that’s okay.

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So, my thinking is a little different than it was when I wrote that lesson #11 was “The answers aren’t online.”  I no longer think that a certain amount of Internet time is “good” or “bad.”

 But I do have a few thoughts on the issue:

  • Beware of using the Internet out of boredom.  Sometimes, I find myself refreshing the same 3 pages, just biding the time.  This isn’t “bad” or “immoral,” but it also isn’t something that I enjoy or something that makes me happy.  When I catch myself doing this, I ask, “What would I rather be doing?”  Sometimes, I’d rather write a book or take a walk.  Sometimes I’m just tired or hungry!
  • Online time can become an escape.   When something is bothering me, I often find that I get involved with discussions or search for a diversion online.  Again, that’s not good or bad.  There is nothing wrong with an escape, when your mind needs it!  But escaping is a short-term solution.  Eventually, we need to deal with whatever it is we are trying to escape.
  • You don’t need to try to change the world.  I have sworn off political discussion, because they only led to anger and hard feelings.  But I’ve found myself sucked into other discussions, feeling like I needed to advocate for something.  It’s good to inform and to share your ideas, but it’s also fine to bow out if the discussion becomes emotionally draining.  A great example of this for me has been all of the discussions that have started after Robin Williams’s death.  For my own mental health, I’m only engaging in those, in moderation!
  • Everyone you meet is on a journey.  Through my online interactions, I have met some people who have shared amazing ideas and completely rocked my world.  But it’s important to remember that these people are not fully enlightened beings, they are just people on a journey, just like me.  They have ideas, but they don’t have the Answers.  And they bring their emotional baggage to the table, just like I do.
  • Online interactions are great practice for “real life.”  While I don’t really buy into the whole introvert vs extrovert thing, I do realize that I haven’t fully developed the skill of being assertive.  So I practice online.  The conversation is slower, and there is time to think through my responses.  I’ve found this to be a great way to practice, and it does gradually transfer into my “real life” conversations.

I think the most important thing to remember is that the Internet and the many communities on it are tools.  Use them to help you in your journey and to get closer to finding your answers.

Just remember that then answers themselves are not “out there.”

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Clear Lake Shores–Our New Hometown

Good evening, folks!

It is high time that I share a little with you, about our new hometown, Clear Lake Shores.

We fell in love with this town, as soon as we started exploring marinas.  Only seeing it from the main drag, we liked the palm trees and and the “salty” look of the town.

And we hadn’t seen the half of it.

When we had the opportunity to lease a slip at a marina in Clear Lake Shores, we excitedly went for it.  And…here we are!  Last night, I decided to take a bike ride around the island that constitutes most of this small town.

I began by fetching my folder from behind the bath house…

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On my bike and ready to go!

 

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Clear Lake Shores is considered to be the yachting capitol of Texas, and it boasts having more boat slips than people.  Here is the view of Clear Lake Shores, from our marina.

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On my way toward the island that contains most of the town, I passed one of our favorite venues–the boaters’ resale shop!

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Here’s the last intersection before the island.

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Over the bridge…

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Lots of boat slips on the other side.

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Paradise…

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The very cutsie looking police department.

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Clear Lake Shores is a bird sanctuary, and there are plenty of odd-ducks to admire!

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Watch out!

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Plenty of beautiful homes…

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There are two canals leading off of the island, ending right across the street from the school.  Can you imagine being dropped off at school, by dinghy?

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A beautiful playground, that Beanie enjoys!

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A beautiful street on the backside of the island.

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Docked on the back side…

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As I made my way around, it became clear that a storm was crossing the lake.

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I could see it in Seabrook, across from us.

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I saw it encroaching on our marina.

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As I hastened back, I saw our old slip.

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I made my way back home, in time.

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And there Rob was, with the hatches battened.  We were prepared for the worst, but the storm never came.

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P.S.  I feel like I need to say a few words about the unexpected death of Rob in Williams.  I’ve engaged in many wonderful discussions about depression and mental health on Facebook, and I’m grateful for the increased awareness. Suicide is NOT the “easy” way out–it’s an act of desperation.  I believe that all of us have experienced desperation in some way, shape or form.  So, while another’s life is not our responsibility, it is important for us to be as kind as we can to those around us.  We never know how much someone is suffering.

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Click here for help, if you’re in that place of desperation.

 

 

A Tribute to the Path

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When we were without Internet access, a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook post, sharing this article. When I was finally able to take a look at it, I wasn’t sure how to respond.

First off, I thought, this is silly.  I have no need to defend the choices I’ve made.  Would I be happier if I just said “forget it,” moved into a house, and bought all the things we do without (you know, like an oven or private shower)?  Of course not!  Not at this point.

So that’s my choice.  And there is no need to defend it at all.  But my friend shared the article with me because she was curious about my choices, not because she wanted to start a debate.  In that spirit, I had so many thoughts about the article (and no, I did not disagree with all of the points they made!), that I thought I would write a blog post in response.  I thought I might address every point they brought up, and give my thoughts on it.

But first, I thought I would pick some of my friends’ brains and find out their thoughts on the article.  What followed was a great discussion, neither a debate nor an echo chamber.  And this ever-so-slightly snarky response from a long-time blogging friend of mine.

I thought of the discussion on and off throughout my day and realized how fortunate I am to have friends who challenge me, yet in such a gentle way.  My friend who shared the article reminded me to think for myself rather than blindly following a doctrine.  My friend who wrote the blog post reminded me to balance my time and notice the life happening around me.

Which led me to think about minimalism–as well as the other choices I have made.  And thinking of that led me to change my approach in this response.

Minimalism does not need any further debate, defense or explanation.  There is no need for me to re-hash what has already been written.  Everyone makes great points, but they are all missing one concept.

And that it the concept of the path.

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Life, and all that it entails–be it minimalism, materialism, sustainable living, spirituality/religious beliefs, thoughts and assumptions–is a journey.  Whatever paths we choose are just that, paths.  We need to be willing to follow the curves and bends in the path, and to choose when it forks.

For me, minimalism was a path that I traversed.  Yes, there was a time when I was a little too obsessed with physical decluttering.  There was a time when I purged possessions obsessively, to the point where my *stuff* got all the attention.  There was a time when I looked down on those who chose to have more possessions.  There was a time when I took things to a crazy level, so that I could say I belonged to this group.

Notice that I didn’t say that I’m ashamed to admit any of that.

Because, for me, it was all necessary.  It was all a part of the process–it was my path.  I began my journey into minimalism, because I wanted less stress.  I wanted to stop worrying and living in fear.  I wanted to feel like I was living correctly, like I was doing the right thing.  And, so desperately, I wanted to belong to something.

Minimalism gave me none of those things, directly.  But it was the path that led me to all of that and more.

Through my writing about minimalism, I became connected to a community who challenged me to question the way we were “supposed” to live, and led me to realize that my potential was more than I could have imagined.  Through questioning the possessions we are “supposed” to have, I began questioning the entire script for life we were supposed to follow.

As I began to question the script, I began to question all the assumptions I had been holding, about life.  I saw that the world open to me, and that I could create any life that I could imagine.  But I also saw that peace and the end to fear, worry, and stress could come from nowhere except within myself.  I could see that there is no “wrong” way to do life, and that it isn’t a test.  Kindness doesn’t come from a philosophy on possessions; it comes from increasing understanding–of ourselves, and our place in the world and in life.

As far as belonging, I came to see that we are the only ones holding ourselves back from belonging to all humanity.

I no longer count my possessions.  I live in a small space and do without a lot.  I am still happier living with less.

But the real reward of minimalism has been the path that it has led me along.  Rather than being the quick answer, it has led me to a life of looking deeper and working toward finding the real answers.

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Texas Women Bloggers

Our New Life–A Long-Awaited Update

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Never in my life have I worked as hard as I have over the past two weeks.

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Day in and day out, we worked from 10 to 7, turning Breaking Tradition into a home and emptying our apartment.  The walls needed to be painted, carpet needed to be installed, cushions needed to be purchased, and the holding tank needed to be replaced.  And that was just the interior!

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Outside, there were decks to clean and plenty to teak to be restored.  Underneath, there was a bilge to clean, and an air-conditioning unit to install (which required breaching the hull twice—talk about nerve-wracking!).

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We had to take a couple of days off from working on the boat, so that we could attend to the bittersweet business of emptying our apartment.  Two days was all it really took to complete the Great Purge #3.  Two days instead of two months.  Our last night there, we drank a toast out on our balcony.  We enjoyed our time in Lakeshire Place, although we are excited about our new adventures.

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After emptying the apartment on the 31st, Beanie headed over to Grandma and Grandpa’s home, while Rob and I went to work on Breaking Tradition, which was still in a slip in someone’s yard.  We worked relentlessly, with no showers and using Home Depot’s restrooms.

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On Sunday, August 3, we finally deemed the boat worthy of making the journey to Legend Point marina.  This is a very nice, privately owned marina, similar to our former home port in Bay City, only without the dry storage.  Sunday night Beanie joined us and spent her first night in her new bedroom.

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There is still a lot of work to do, but we are slowing the pace now that we are here.  One task per day is enough.  Eventually, we will have Velcro on the cushions, a new countertop in the bathroom, a working water system, and more than one working outlet.

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Life here is slower.  We’re getting to know the other live-aboards (we are definitely the youngest, and the only family!).  We enjoy evening walks, and trips to the pool during the day.

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It amazes me how quickly it all came back to me, everything I learned on Moonraker.  I wake up just before sunrise, so that I can take my walk to the end of our pier.  Sometimes I take pictures, other times I just sit and watch the new day begin around me.

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I’ll never lose those mornings.  There will be no “back to reality” this time.

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This is reality.

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I’ve reorganized my kitchen, and meals have become incredibly simple.  Just like on Moonraker—bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and sandwiches or whatever will fit on the grill for dinner. We begin the day with coffee and always have a pitcher of sun tea.

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Housework takes place during the first 5 minutes of our morning, and the rest of the day is ours to enjoy.  The cat and fish have joined us, and they are settling in nicely.

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In the evenings, I take Beanie swimming before her shower.  Then, she puts herself to bed like a “big girl,” while Rob and I head out to the cockpit to take in the sunset.

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Almost exactly two years ago we left Moonraker in Grand Haven and returned to reality.  “But the thing we’ve noticed is that we’ve changed,” I wrote, “And we have yet to discover exactly how profound that change is.”

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I should have known.

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Minimalism: A Beginner’s Guide (Revised Version)

Note: This is a revision of a post I wrote in August 2012.  

Photographs by Joy Sussman, © JoyfullyGreen.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photographs by Joy Sussman, © JoyfullyGreen.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I once had an interesting discussion on an online forum. One of my friends asked, “How do you get started living minimalistically?”  I was able to quickly throw out some tips on decluttering, but the answer to the question is much more complicated. If it were just about stuff, we would all run to Goodwill a few times and be done with it.

So, I examined my journey toward minimalism, and I’ve  researched the paths of other minimalists. What I’ve realized is that, in order to live a more minimalistic life, you need to consider four things: the reason you have so much stuff, the way you want your life to look, starting (and finishing!) a decluttering process, and preventing the clutter from returning. Let’s take a look at each of these.

First, Let’s Define “Minimalism”

I was introduced to the concept of “minimalism” when I met a couple who were living on a 30 foot boat.  They owned two outfits, one pair of shoes, and he used a rubber band in place of a wallet.  We were intrigued by this lifestyle and are living quite similarly, but this is not the only face of minimalism.

Let’s take a look at how some of the more popular minimalist blogs define minimalism.  Leo Babauta, one of the earliest and most influential writers on minimalism at Zen Habits and Mnmlist defines it this way:

It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.

According to The Minimalists, “Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”  On his blog, Becoming Minimalist, Josh Becker defines minimalism as removing clutter, decorating in a minimalist style, using money for things that are more valuable than physical possessions, and living a counter-cultural life that is attractive to others.

My favorite “definition,” however, is the concept of lagom.  According to Francine Jay, on her blog Miss Minimalistlagom is a Swedish word that roughly means “just enough.”  She states, “The lovely thing about lagom is that it’s a desirable state of appropriateness, or enoughness—and has nothing to do with scarcity or deprivation. It’s both the opposite of having too much and too little, and instead a celebration of moderation.”

That is the kind of mindset and lifestyle that we’re talking about, when we say that we want to live minimalistically.

What Does Minimalism Look Like?

Minimalism has many faces.  For us, it means owning only enough possessions to live comfortably on an uncluttered 35 foot sailboat.  For Lois, who blogs at Living Simply Free, it means living in a 300 square foot apartment.  However, this apartment is anything but empty.  According to Lois, ” I restore furniture and do many crafts so I have supplies here, but I keep the bare minimum needed to do what I need.”

For John, from the blog Practical Civilization, it means living simply, owning less, and having his own guitar-teaching business.  Kathy Gottberg, from SMART Living 365 and her husband are also self-employed and enjoy having lots of time to spend together in their California home.  She refers to minimalism as “right-sizing” her life.

For Nancy, at Just a Backpack and a Rollie, it means working toward becoming a “roving retiree” with her husband, traveling and living out of two small bags.  For Eliza and Joel, who blog at The Fearse Family, it means consuming mindfully, buying used whenever possible, and being conscious of their impact on the environment.  Eliza states, “We take things a little slower and take a moment to consider the things that happen to us and the choices we make. It doesn’t always make our life happier, but it does always make us feel better about the things we choose in our life. We don’t let life zip by.”

Cathryn, from Concrete Moomin, lives in an apartment in central London, where it is not necessary for her to own a car.  She states that minimalism involves, “trying to stay aware and be mindful of what I own or what I’m thinking of buying and sometimes using a ‘one in one out’ policy on things like clothes or books.”  For Patrick, who blogs at Bumfuzzle, it means living nomadically with his family–first on a sailboat and now in a vintage motor home.  Patrick explains, “We are accidental perpetual travelers. We live simply, travel far, eschew normalcy, all while trying to maintain our boat or bus as a comfortable home for our family.”

Joy, from Joyfully Green, states that, “I wouldn’t consider myself a traditional minimalist. I live in a house that’s bigger than we need, and it’s not sparsely decorated. I think I’m more of a non-consumerist. ”  Her family shops at second-hand stores for clothing and books.   And they live about an hour outside of New York City, so they certainly have plenty to choose from.  Her family shops (mostly) at consignment stores for kids’ clothing, and for books, they head to Strand Books in New York–“the best store for used books on the whole planet!”

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How Did I Get So Much Stuff?

All clutter comes from somewhere. For me, it was a combination of family heirlooms, “must have’s” that I thought I needed in order to be a successful adult, collections, and great deals that I couldn’t pass up.

Lois’s clutter began when she first moved out on her own and strove to make her house look “like something out of a magazine” to show that she was “successful.”  John never collected very many items, but he found that, like me,  he ended up buying clothes he didn’t wear.  He also inherited a number of knick-knacks.

Like Lois, Kathy felt the urge to overspend as her income was growing.  She explains, “We got a bigger, nicer house, nicer cars, nicer stuff…but we weren’t really any happier than when we were just trying to figure it out with little or no money.”  Nancy, too, grew up with the belief that stuff meant success.  She states, ” It was a visual mark that you had made it so we all kept upgrading. Often without eliminating.”

Eliza and Joel kept a number of collections and had a hard time turning down good deals.  She states, “He was a childhood collector (a trait he still holds in adulthood) and has kept all of his trading cards and figurines and old toys. Now he collects media – lots of vinyl, DVDs, VHS, CDs etc. I love the vintage aesthetic – particularly the 1960 and the 1970s. Because a lot of the time I found stuff either cheaply or that was rare I just kept filling the house with more and more.”

Cathryn’s home became cluttered when she and her husband moved in together.  She states, “Both me and my husband had lived alone for a while before we met so when we got our first place together we had at least 2 of most things, including furniture.”  Joy’s weakness was books.  She explains, “My husband and I–and both of our children now–are big readers, so books are our collective weakness! An old bookshop has a lure like a siren’s call!”

So what about you?  Take a long, hard look at the source of your clutter.   This is really the first step toward decluttering.

How Would Your Dream Life Look?

Decluttering, or even minimalism for that matter, is not an end in itself. If you are aiming to make minimalism your only passion and decluttering your only hobby, you probably won’t be happy. That is why it’s important to consider your intentions, as you move toward this type of lifestyle.

For us, our passion has always been sailing. We wanted to have the time and the money to pursue this passion, and that required some restructuring of our finances and our priorities. We wanted to live aboard full time, and that led us to seriously reduce our material possessions.

Lois’s drive is to live in a way that sustains the environment.  In order to limit her consumption of the earth’s resources, she has made upcycling and second hand shopping a staple of her life.  She states: “Rather than purchasing what I need new I first look to find it used, and am not ashamed to dumpster dive for what I need. I have very little in the way of clothes, shoes, or even kitchen utensils.”  Living in a small apartment has helped Lois to achieve these goals.  She explains, “My little apartment has allowed me to experiment with how little I can get by with without feeling deprived.  As a result I have no microwave, no fridge (I do have a small freezer to store food I grow), and no stove.”

John states that, ” I suppose my main goal in decluttering was to reject what the mainstream was telling me: ‘Buy this widget to be cooler, look better, be in the know.’ I called BS on this and enjoyed the money and peace of mind I saved in the process.”  And he adds, “The overarching goal is to surround myself with awesome people and memories. I want to collect experiences with people, not things.”

Kathy’s goal is to keep her life “right-sized,” to stay completely debt-free, and to continue to invest in real estate so that she and her husband can work, or not work, at will as they get older.  With a goal of traveling when desired and following her passions and interests, Kathy plans to live purposefully no matter where in the world that might lead.  She states, “We chose adventure and experience over stuff and we have been working on paring down to the basics so we can sell our rent our house and hit the road sometime soon, staying where we like for as long as it suits us.”

Eliza and Joel’s goal is to create a calm, stress-free home.  She explains, “We want to be able to focus our energy on people we love and exciting experiences, but we also love being at home and want home to be a place that reflects us and is soothing to be in.”  Cathryn’s goal is to simplify her home, so that less time will be spent looking for things.  She states, “My goal in decluttering was to reach a point where we only own things that we need, that are beautiful or are very sentimental in some way.”

Patrick’s family began with the goal of spending a year sailing the Caribbean.  They later decided to sail for four years, and then ended up traveling in a motor home.  As for their future plans?  According to Patrick, “Tomorrow we’re driving to Deception Pass State Park. Beyond that, who knows? One thing we’re sure of for our future is that we’ll never own a big home filled with lots of stuff. We like our simple life and being able to pick up and go at the drop of a hat.

For Joy, it’s all about living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.  She avoids new products that were “probably made in China under bad working conditions.”  She states, “Manufacturing, packaging, and shipping new products collectively take an awful toll on the environment, and I really want to minimize how much we contribute to that whole mess.”

Minimalism will not look the same for everyone. Your dream might be radically different from someone else’s.   Without a vision, you will just purge for the sake of purging, and run the risk of living a life of doing-without.  Both of these activities are surefire ways to experience burn-out.

All Right, So How do We Get Started?

For Lois, it began when she removed knick-knacks that well-meaning friends had given her.  And then she got rid of her television.  According to Lois, “Once that was gone I was on a roll and couldn’t stop decluttering.  That space was going to reflect who I was and no one else..”

John got started decluttering during a move.  As he was packing, he saw how wasteful he had been living.  He states, ” I had a weird obsession with only hanging onto stuff I knew I would use on a weekly basis. It gave me peace of mind knowing that I wasn’t hoarding anything or taking my fair share of raw materials from society.”

Kathy began decluttering when she sold her house.  She explains, “Because we were still in sales (real estate) and saw that the market was going to  (and then did) crash we decided to be very conservative and scale back on everything.  We sold our big fancy house before things got too bad and came out okay (we were never over-leveraged) and bought a smaller, energy efficient house completely free and clear.”

Nancy and her husband began by selling her husband’s collections on e-bay.  From there, they progressed to emptying out closets and selling the items on Craig’s List or donating them.

Eliza and Joel decided to buy nothing new for a year.  She was surprised at how much this transformed their lives.  She explains, “Decluttering was just a bi-product of the whole transformation from consumers to “non” consumers – if there is such a thing!”

Cathryn has moved a number of times, and this helped her and her husband to make progress decluttering.  She states, “With each house move we gradually filtered through everything and for a while we didn’t even own any furniture and just rented furnished places to make moving house a bit simpler.”

Patrick’s family decided to live nomadically 11 years ago, so they sold most of their belongings in preparation.  Patrick says, “From that point on we were hung-ho to sell everything we owned.  We didn’t make it, however. We still ended up with a bedroom full of stuff in my in-laws basement—mostly big ticket furniture items that we couldn’t figure out how to sell (this was before Craigslist was really a thing).”  These items were purged after they returned from sailing.

It was a sad situation that led Joy to embrace minimalism.  After her parents passed away, she and her sister had to go through their possessions.  She was surprised at how many possessions they had accumulated, after living in their house for so long.  Joy explains, “I didn’t have children at the time, but I already knew that I didn’t want my future children to have to go through all of my stuff for weeks, weeding out and throwing out.”  She began decluttering after that, making sure that the stuff is “moving out, not in!”

There are lots of “how-to” articles for the task itself, so I don’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel. All I can add is that, if you’ve got a passion you’re working toward, you will have success with any method.

Some Links on Decluttering

How to Win the War on Clutter

Twenty Questions to Clear Your Clutter

Declutter Your Fantasy Self

Zen Mind: How to Declutter

10 Decluttering Principles to Help Anyone Clear the Clutter

59 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Do You Dare Count Your Clothes?

Mama Fearse’s Top Tips for Toy Culling

Breaking up With the UPS Man (My Ode to Non-consumerism)

Life’s Too Short for Flat Soda and Stale Doughnuts

Lessons From a Yard Sale

How Do I Keep the Clutter FromComing Back?

This is the challenge.

We would declutter, then it all would mysteriously come back. Here are some tips for keeping your house clutter-free:

–Make sure friends and family understand, in the gentlest terms possible, what you are trying to do. Christmas used to be a great clutter-fest, until I started writing about minimalism.

–Look back at your reasons for gaining clutter. Address those specifically. For example, if you take in a lot of retail therapy, find some other way to release stress.

–Lois recommends having a place for children and grandchildren to display their artwork.  If it is full, something must come down before something else can go up.

–John uses a “one item in, one item out” policy.  If he buys something new, something else must be thrown out.

–Kathy imagines whether an object will fit into her right-sized home and 99% of the time it won’t.  Decision made.

–Nancy reminds herself of her goals, when she wants to make a purchase.  She explains, “I see something that I think is cute or fun for the house (sometimes even useful) but then I think, ‘Ya, but you will be hauling this to the Goodwill in less than a year.'”

–Eliza and Joel set goals, such as removing 1000 items from their house within a year, or getting rid of 2 items for every item they buy.

–Cathryn avoids shopping at stores where she knows she’ll be tempted to make a purchase.

–Patrick avoids recreational shopping, and only shops when something wears out.

–Joy puts catalogs into the recycling bin as soon as they arrive.  Instead of having a basket of magazines to read, she keeps a basket of books.

Now all that’s left is for you to get started!

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Note:  The photographs in this post were taken by Joy.  If you would like to learn to take pictures like that, you still have time to enroll in her photography course!  Here are the details.

 

 

Texas Women Bloggers