Why Bother?

Jess Painting

The following is a guest post by the most-creatively-inspired-he-has-ever-been-in-his-life half of Minimalist Couple, Mark Adam Douglass.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This whole simplicity and minimalism idea sounds great, but what is in it for me? What is the point? Why should I bother?”

Or, have you been simplifying your life for a while and forgotten the reason you started? Has minimalism become a chore rather than a tool for a better life, one filled with more love, passion and creativity?

The benefits of a simpler, uncluttered life are different for everyone. I know that when times have been tough, when I have lost my way and lost my why, hearing about other people’s journeys and stories and struggles and successes helps me to connect with my why once again. So I am going to share why I love minimalism so much and how it has helped myself and Jess, my fiancé and the other half of Minimalist Couple.

It was just after I met Jess that I discovered the simplicity and minimalism movement, initially through Leo Babauta at Zen Habits and Joshua and Ryan at The Minimalists. The biggest lesson I learnt from them, and other inspirational writers, was that I needed to question everything in my life. I needed to question my stuff, how I spent my time, the people in my life, the work that I do, my relationship to money and every other facet of my life.

So I did.

I reduced a lot of stuff, but still have a long way to go. In order to live a minimalist, clutter free life in the mean time, we developed the ‘I Don’t Know Room’.

I changed the way I spent my time. I stopped watching TV. I reduced my general web surfing, being more particular about I did and read and watched on the net. I reduced my addiction to my smart phone, although I do still struggle with that one. One major achievement was removing all of my games and Facebook.

I reduced or removed my exposure to negative people and increased or added positive people to my life. This was both online and off.

I questioned my work, and how I spent my time. Slowly I have reduced my selling-time-for-money work and increased my time-investment type work.

I had a horrible relationship with money, was $13,500 in consumer debt and hadn’t done my tax in a decade. Within 18 months I caught up on all of my tax, paid off my debt, then got myself thousands of dollars ahead. Throw in Jess’s contribution and we are well and truly ahead financially. The major reason we were able to do this is simple: We reduced our spending to the essentials. Although, as with all elements, we keep tweaking and improving.

Now that I had this clutter free space, spare time to do what I please, had improved the people I spend my time with, evolved my work practice and changed my relationship to money, what did I do with it?

Before I answer that, let me talk a little about Jess. I still vividly remember the first time I met Jess face-to-face. The initial connection was made through online dating, and then we agreed to meet at a Thai restaurant on a beautiful September evening. I remember sitting across from her, looking deep into her eyes, seeing her face light up as she talked about painting and how she loved it and how she wanted to do it more.

At that time, I was performing for a living, mostly doing children’s entertainment. I absolutely loved it, and was definitely living the dream. So I said to Jess, just do it. Paint. Stop dreaming, and make it a part of your life. Then we talked about how she could do that.

Later Jess recalled that this was one the main elements that she found attractive. The fact I was supportive and encouraging and willing to help her make it a part of her life.

So she did. A little. But that little bit here and there led to two paintings that I received for Christmas that year. I am sitting here looking at them whilst I write.

But she struggled as all artists do. Her struggles were mostly related the cluttered life she led, both in stuff and time and obligations and guilt and negativity.

As I noted earlier, it was not long after I met Jess that I discovered minimalism. Jess took a lot longer to embrace the idea. I would read great pieces of writing to her, which we would follow up with interesting conversations and questions. Also, Jess started seeing the benefits in my life.

I was writing and truly enjoying the creative process. I was also more joyful and thoughtful throughout my daily life, as I was much more focussed on delighting her through experiences and moments, rather than buying her stuff.

But I was also challenging, which led to a roller coaster of emotional journeys at times, for us as a couple, but also for both of us individually.

It was worth it though.

Life took an interesting turn about 6 months into our relationship, and we ended up moving in together. This accelerated our growth as a couple, and enabled us to really negotiate our stuff and time.

In regard to the stuff, we left 90% of it in the garage, as neatly organised as possible in boxes and shelving. Then the 10% we had upstairs was just all that we needed, reducing the overwhelm over an over-cluttered space. We then used the spare second bedroom as an interim room for stuff we were sorting through. We worked out systems which were effective and not overwhelming. We got through a lot of stuff in that place.

A couple of months after we moved in, I saw Jess getting overwhelmed by her work. She developed a repetitive strain injury from data entry. And the worst was how low she was emotionally when she came home. I could see her slowly dying inside from doing such mind numbing work whilst not giving herself time to do what she really wanted to do, which was paint.

At this point our financial position was improving, but still had some work to do. But looking at the finances, it wasn’t essential for her to work. I was earning money at a much higher rate of pay, and could easily cover both of us on 20-30 hours of work a week.

So I made Jess an offer. She could quit her job and become a full-time artist.

So she did.

Now she had the space, as we used the lounge room for our creativity. She had the time. And she was free of financial obligations.

So she painted. A lot. In the next few months she pumped out dozens upon dozens of pieces, exploring ideas and concepts that she had been ‘going to do one day’ and then she created all sorts of new ideas inspired by the others.

During that time, I started a blog, with the challenge of writing daily, and have done so successfully this past year and a bit.

Since that time, we have moved twice. Also, I have published two pieces, entered competitions and started the Minimalist Couple blog with Jess. Jess has taken up photography and started a daily photo blog. She also began volunteering to teach art to people with disabilities.

Now we are living by the beach, which we can see from our balcony. Jess is still weaving her magic with painting and photography. I am writing more and more, with a draft of a novel getting closer to publication, along with many other pieces in the works. I am teaching circus skills and acrobatics to inspirational students, and working a couple of nights a week doing maths tutoring. We have various projects in the works, including a video editing project for Grandparents Day. Throw in a writing course I am doing with Joshua Fields Millburn from The Minimalists in November. Also, we are in the initial stages of starting an artists collective, with some fantastic support from important people in the community.

Our lives are now all about art and creativity and contribution. This simply came through questioning everything.

So why bother?

For me, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life and I am the most creatively inspired I have ever been.

I hope our stories have helped to inspire your journey, and we would both love to hear about your stories. You can find out more about Mark and Jess at Minimalist Couple.  Also, please check out Bethany’s post, “Hitting the Reset Button,” featured on our blog today.

The January Conversation: Moving Beyond Decluttering

There’s something about January. Maybe it’s the New Year, maybe it’s the fact that days are getting longer, maybe it’s because we’re all stuck inside, with nothing else to do but think. But, whatever the reason, this January has led to some very insightful discussions in the minimalism blogging world.

Here are some of my favorite posts from this month, guaranteed to give you something to think about!

There is More to Simplicity that Getting Simple
Once you’re done decluttering, will your life feel full? Not unless you find something to fill the empty spaces you’ve created.

Minimalist Monday: Redefining SuccessIt always bugged me, that “successful” people are those with the most money and stuff. Here is a different way to define it.

Overcommitment and StressWe don’t know how to say “no,” and we wear our stress and busy-ness like a badge. But there is a better way.

In this day and age, more than ever, being truly connected to each other is important.

The Case for an Ordinary Life
There is something to be said for living a good, ordinary life.

How to Stop Wasting Your Life
We’re only given so much time, so let’s use it well.

Simple Thoughts: Fully Present
Being fully present, in the moment, takes practice. But it is worth it.

Where Simplicity Begins
It doesn’t begin with a trip to Goodwill.

Have a great day, and happy reading

Some New Additions

I’m always looking for new blogs to follow, and new, interesing people to meet, new people to bring into what I jokingly term our “exclusive clique.” (You see, it’s a joke because we’re not exclusive in the least, but I pretend that we’re the cool kids).

Anyway, if you like sharing ideas with People Who Don’t Have a Lot of Stuff (or, if you prefer, PWD HALOS), here are some more blogs that I think you will enjoy. I followed these for awhile, using the same criteria that I used for the rest of my blogroll.

Be More With Less
If you haven’t read Courtney Carver’s writing yet, then you absolutely need to! This is a larger blog, but has a very strong community. Courtney’s message is overwhelmingly positive, and the discussions are lengthy and intellectual. Courtney is never too busy to join in the discussion or correspond with her readers.

Born Again Minimalist
Caitlin has a refreshingly idealistic approach to life, and her posts will definitely make you think. She inspires a great deal of discussion, and is not afraid to touch on touchy issues, without ever coming across as judgmental.

My Little Red Suitcase
This is just a delightful, very slice-of-life blog that will make you smile. Heather has a very charming personality, that always shows through in her sweetly honest writing.

Smallish Blog
Crunchy homemaking and minimalism often go hand-in-hand, and both are themes in Evelyn’s blog. Her tone is always upbeat and light-hearted, as she shares ideas for living a rich life in a tiny space.

So there is some good reading for you to do, on these cold, snowy days (at least it’s cold and snowy for those of us who live in cooler climates!). I will continue stalking other blogs, looking for more people with great ideas and big hearts. So, by all means, share any recommendations that you have!

15 Great Small Blogs by People Who Don’t Have a Lot of Stuff

Being intentional with my online time has led me to rethink the reading that I have been doing. I enjoy checking into other people’s blogs, and I’m always looking for new ideas. But I’ve too often been disappointed–sometimes someone will have great ideas, then stop writing. Sometimes, a blog gets too big and becomes removed from the community they once were trying to create, or worse, starts merchandising.

The reason I share my ideas, and read the ideas of others, is to be a part of a community. To be a part of a discussion. To be challenged to make positive changes in my life. I found that some of my online activities did not do that, were just “fluff” or even a complete waste of time.

So, to improve the quality of my online time, to make sure that technology is actually enriching my life, I took a good look at my blogroll. I started searching for other people in the community, and followed their blogs for a few weeks. The end result is this list, which I will be presenting to you!

I won’t be referring to these as “Minimalist Blogs,” because I’ve found that many people resist that label. I always thought of it as a positive thing, because I always definted “minimalist” by the first people I met who lived this way. Because of that, my mental picture of a minimalist was NOT of someone trying to live like a monk, or someone living in an empty, sterile house. Really, “voluntary simplicity” might be a better descriptor, or even “intentional living.” But, no, as a special education teacher I’m sick of labels already. So I’m calling it as it is. Henceforth, we are “People Who Don’t Have a Lot of Stuff.” And it doesn’t get abbreviated, or turned into an acronym, because I see enough of those in my day. So there. The issue is settled.

Anyway, when choosing which blogs to follow, I used these criteria:

—The blog is written by the person who maintains it. I don’t follow a lot of big blogs, because they tend to run out of things to say and resort to guest posts exclusively. I want to hear the writer’s voice! My exception to this is Miss Minimalist, because her guest posts enhance her message, and she does write a post herself once a week. I know I also host Fly Lady’s column on Fridays, so I’m a hypocrite there…

—No merchandising! We’re trying to get away from consumerism and Getting More Stuff. So nobody on my list does sponsored posts. A couple of them do the occasional give-away, which I find to be annoying, but I did not include any that make that central to their focus.

—I chose only blogs that facilitate discussion. Everybody either responds to their comments or has a great discussion going on.

—These blogs are all updated at least once a week, unless the writer lets everyone know that they are taking some time off. They’re not likely to run out of things to say anytime soon!

–And, finally, the subject matter is good. These writers will challenge your way of thinking and of doing things.

So, here’s my list!

Gold Stars Double Rainbows
This is written by a couple living in Paraguay, with the Peace Corps. They share their adventures, as well as they ways in which living in that culture has challenged their way of thinking.

Intentionally Simple
This is written by Rachel, a mother and a Person Who Doesn’t Have a Lot of Stuff. She has great practical ideas and did a series called “31 Days to Living Intentionally Simple,” which is a great way to get started at simplifying your life!

Just a Little Less
Dolly has a lot of practical ideas for living simply, and her honesty and sincerity are very refreshing. Be sure to look at the pictures of her house–it’s gorgeous in its simple, calm decor!

Living Lagom
If you haven’t read this blog, you really need to! Sandra shares her stories and ideas in a very down-to-earth manner. “Lagom” is a Swedish term meaning “just enough,” and Sandra takes us on her journey to find lagom in every aspect of her life.

Living Simply Free
Lois lives in a 300 square foot apartment and shares her ideas for downsizing, decluttering, and upcycling. The best part of her blog are her projects, for turning junk into treasures.

Miss Minimalist
This is the only big blog that I follow. Francine does a lot of facilitate discussion and community. Her guest posts support her message and bring more people into the community that she helped create. And she writes one post a week as well, chronicling her efforts to be a Person Who Doesn’t Have a Lot of Stuff, with a child.

Plastic is Rubbish
This couple completely boycotts all things plastic! They share tales from their adventures, as they travel the world, and some very practical ideas to avoid using plastic. Even if you don’t avoid plastic, their ideas will help you to live more sustainably.

Simply Super Kim
After having ovarian cancer, Kim began her journey toward a more simple, healthy lifestyle. She has actually been sugar-free for three months now! Kim is honest about her struggles, as she tries to go against the grain.

Slow Your Home
Brooke is on a mission to “slow the hell down.” You will love her sense of humor and her great ideas. She also offers a “boot camp,” to help you get started on your jouney toward simplicity.

The Non-Consumer Advocate
Katy is an expert on thrift-store hunting and repurposing. You will love reading about her finds and be inspired to do some hunting of your own. It’s retail therapy for People Who Don’t Have a Lot of Stuff!

The Ramble
The adventure lifestyle is much easier, when you don’t have a lot of stuff. Gigi will take you across the world and entertain you with her fun and insightful stories.

The Simple Year
Kerry’s family is going a year, buying no new things. She documents her adventures and learnings as she does this. The most interesting posts are about other people’s reactions to her project.

Writing From Afar
When I first read about Tony’s plan to break free from the 9-to-5 workday and adventure full-time, I thought it was a pipe dream! But now, he’s come so close to turning that dream into a reality, that I can’t help but be inspired. In his posts, Tony challenges the script that we’re all expected to follow.

Zach Aboard
My favorite live-aboard family details life on the Majestic, a cataran docked in Chesapeake Bay. Cindy writes about natural/attachment parenting, simple living, and, of course, sailing.

Zen Presence
Dan shares wonderful ideas for finding focus and calm in the middle of a crazy world. You’ll probably want to print off some of his reminders, to help you find a bit of zen in your day.

So, that’s my list! I hope you enjoy reading all of these blogs as much as I do!

More Reading

Good afternoon! Here are some good links, for your reading pleasure…

The Magic of Compound Interest
Making your money work for you can actually be exciting!

Change Your Life in 6 Months
How to take lemons and make lemonade.

Small but Perfectly Functional
A look at Scandinavian architecture.

I Don’t Believe in Printers!
There just might be one less thing you need in your home!

Why you don’t need to do it all.

Zero Waste Wardrobe?
Another look at the clothing issue, from a minimalistic perspective.

Sweet Washing
Enjoying the simple pleasure of line drying.

Picky Eaters
How to expand your culinary horizons.

Fifty Ways to Wear a Men’s Dress Shirt, Day One
A little clothing innovation!

Keeping it Simple: Money and the Amish
A couple good book reviews!

Backyard Mexican Barbecue: Homemade Carne Asada
A yummy end-of-summer treat!

$7 Bathroom Makeover
Forget HGTV…

Should You Eat Cinnamon?
Did you know that there are two types of cinnamon? One has more benefits than the other.

The Family Command Center
A good way to keep everybody organized.

A New Place Coming Soon
Time to downsize!

Rejection: The Bane of a Transplant Patient
If you’ve been following Bridget and Jason, things are not going well. Be sure to leave your support in a comment.

Hoarding or Minimizing: Finding my Place on the Continuum

The dilemma we all face: How much is just enough?

A Completely Rational Fear of Butterflies
You’ll be afraid of them too, after reading this!

Market Day in Freiburg
You’ll love reading about Gigi’s adventures backpacking in Europe!

The $1.50 Sheets
Check put these cute dresses, made with thrift store bed sheets!

Happy Monday and happy reading!

Some Good Reading…

Well, if this comes up, I’m out of cell phone range. Don’t worry, we’re fine! Just off the grid for a few days…

So, while you wait, here are some articles from my favorite blogs!

Play Kitchen
Check out this very simple, very fun play kitchen from the family that lives aboard the Majestic!

Book Review
Sara talks about “That Fault in Our Stars.” I actually downloaded this book and found it to be completely awesome. Check it out!

Hoarding and Minimizing: Finding my Place on the Continuum
This was written by one of my teaching partners for next year. I think we all can relate to her dilemma!

Rejection: The Bane of a Transplant Patient!
If you’ve been following Bridget and Jason’s story, they’re now going through a difficult time. But, of course, they are staying positive and taking it one day at a time!

4 Nights in Rome
A fun adventure in relocation! When you finish reading about volume 1, go on to volume 2…

Good Habits
Heather gives some advice for self-improvement over the summer months.

Around the Clock Shower
A very neat alternative to the traditional shower.

Stories of Hope and Healing: Tooth Decay/Autism
Donielle has very neat stories of natural healing–check it out!

5 Ways to Simple Natural Food

This is great if you want to eat naturally, but need a place to start!

Fifty Ways to Wear a Men’s Dress Shirt: Day One

Some ideas for your minimalist/zero waste wardrobe!

My 25 Things
This is actually written by Sarah, a teenage minimalist. If you haven’t checked out her blog, make sure you do!

Food Waste Friday

The Tasmanian Minimalist talks about ways to reduce your food waste.

The Zero Waste Wardrobe?
Some thoughts on making it happen.

Minimalist Philosophy: Not-to-Have and Not-to-Be
A different look at how we define ourselves.

High 5 to 35!
Because, as I’ve said, life begins at 30!

Me and Nessy vs. Big Box Store Employee

On the lighter side…Read it, you’ll love it!

Coming from a Culture of Excess
Reconciling a very passionate, fun (but excessive) culture with minimalism. You can have the best of both worlds!

Small Things, Big Changes

How making small changes can help you live more frugally.

Planning Ahead for Groceries

How that shopping list can save you money!

Enjoy reading these, and I’ll see you in a couple days! (I do have posts for every day I’m gone, so do come back in the meantime!).

Some Saturday Reading…

A lot of bloggers take breaks during the winter, but with the coming of spring, we’re beginning to hear about everyone’s adventures once again. Here are some good link:

Susan does a really good commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Her bread-and-butter money advice is always great, but I think she has a knack for devotional-type writing as well. Perhaps we’ll see her on Passionate Homemaking someday…

A Kinder, Gentler Minimalism
Francine (aka Miss Minimalist) took a sabbatical from her blogging…And returned with a baby and a house! Now, we get to follow her adventures are she reconciles her former, extreme minimalistic lifestyle with the “American Dream.” I’m curious to see how her Suburbanalist lifestyle turns out.

What I’ve Learned About Learning
Zen Habits has some nice suggestions and commentary of learning, and helping children to enjoy learning. He’s a strong proponent of unschooling. While I don’t know that every child would learn everything they need through this method, there is something to be said for instilling that love of learning, through child-led discoveries. I’ve seen many kids just burn out from being directly taught at school and then at home.

My Husband’s Story: Solar Energy
I was afraid that the Zero Waste family was on their way out of the blogging world, since they had scaled down to the occasional guest post. But now they’re back, with more great ideas! Recently, they installed solar panels, and now they got their first electric bill. You can see why we’re switching to solar…

Simple Household Baby Toys
Forget the boxes of plastic! You’ve got some great baby toys right under your own roof. We get flyers from Beanie’s school recommending play projects using everyday objects, and I can’t get enough of it.

Dairy Free Ranch Dressing

When you have to follow a special diet, it seems that the sauces are always the first thing to go. Here’s a recipe for Ranch Dressing that is dairy free. Of course, you could modify it to be gluten-free, low glycemic, or whatever you need!

Spring Bucket LIst–Family Fun for the Seasons
Some fun, family activities for the spring. Help keep your antsy little ones busy during that short-but-oh-so-long home stretch to summer!

May Day Tidings and a Power Bar Recipe
Another great recipe. And Heather’s kids’ latest antics. If you haven’t been following, her youngest recently got into a tube of Butt Paste and spread it all over the house. A sense of humor is a must, when raising little ones…

Adventurizing Stability
Just like Miss Minimalist, newlyweds Megan and Corey are struggling with their desire for adventure and their need for a home base. It’s interesting to watch these kids find themselves, and you know that, in the end, they will be happy with a life that is uniquely theirs, free from any outside pressures.

Lukey’s Boat is Painted
Zack, who has lived aboard since the day he came home from the hospital, finally has a sailboat of his own. A big day for any kid!

Well, we’re off to clean the motor home, so it can leave our yard (hopefully forever!). Then, hopefully Fed Ex will bring us the bottom paint we ordered for Moonraker, so we can make a trip out to Bay City.

Have a great weekend!