Minimalist HNL

If you’ve been here before and you are looking for the 31 days entries, you can scroll down to the bottom of this page for an index of all the entries for the month. Thank you for stopping by!

31 daysHello!
Chances are if you are landing on this page, you wandered over here from the 31 Days project page from the The Nester.  So let me take a moment to introduce my theme (I introduce myself on my About Me page which you can find HERE ).

What is minimalism?

The odd thing about minimalism is that for a such a simple concept, it’s very hard to define. Every minimalist looks different from the next, and we’re all convinced that we’re doing it the exact right way for us.  We defy being thrown under one umbrella definition because at its heart minimalism isn’t about living with as little as possible. It’s not even about meeting a list of specific sacrifices.  It’s about making more: more time, more money and more room. You see, minimalists think today’s culture which teaches Stuff = Joy has it all wrong. Stuff doesn’t bring joy. It buries joy.  Stuff requires care and maintenance. We have to clean it and house it and feed it – gas, time, money, electricity.  Stuff costs far more money than most of us have so we work harder to pay for stuff we couldn’t afford in the first place and now we don’t have time to enjoy.  This isn’t the kind of more I am talking about.  Minimalism is a living model of addition by subtraction. To the last man, woman and family, minimalists agree that by reducing life to the things we love most deeply, we will exponentially increase our joy. We all look so different because what we love is highly individual.  What is it you love most? What would you sacrifice to have more of it? When you stop thinking about making those changes and actually begin changing…then you are a minimalist.

I first started really examining minimalism two years ago for the 31 Day Project.  My theme was “31 days of Simply Living.”  I had no idea then which direction the path would take when it forked from simplifying my life to radically redefining the way I thought about pretty much everything. It’s been quite an adventure. I’ll talk about it here in the next 31 days as well as examining where the road may lead next. Which leads us to the next question:

What is ‘HNL”?

Around my home, we use the term HNL often. It’s the acronym for ‘Hole Notha Level.  In other words, I’ve written about these things before.  But when I wrote about them, I was a beginner, examining and dabbling, with more questions than answers and very little experience.  Two years later and hundreds of pounds lighter, I think many of my early philosophies have changed.  I want to think about what has worked, what has failed, and what just needed a different approach.  I have so much more to learn, however I also know it’s time to share some of what I have learned already and possibly convince you that there’s more joy and time for you too. It’s just buried under a lot of your stuff. There’s a manageable solution for that. Let’s talk about it for the next 31 days.

October 1: 10 Reasons you can’t be a Minimalist Pt 1 
October 2: 10 Reasons you can’t be a Minimalist Pt 2
Ocotber 3: 10 Reasons you can’t be a minimalist Pt 3
October 4: Gypsy Life
October 5: The Imperfect Minimalist
October 6: The Bottom Line
October 7: Treasure
October 8: The First Rule of Minimalism
October 9: Life Outside the Box: 5 things we’ve learned since turning off cable
October 10: Time Out
October 11: Numbering
October 12: Closets: an American Horror Story
October 13: A Tale of Four Closets
October 14: Begin With the End in Mind
October 15: Living Spaces: 5 ways to Regain Control
October 16: Intermission
October 17: Some Days are like that. Even for Minimalists
October 18: Kid Stuff
October 19: Ten Kitchen Tips for the Minimalist
October 20: Four Steps to a bedroom Beautiful
October 21: Seeking God ( Middle Places)
October 22: Divided
October 23: Before I Die
October 24: Life beyond Housework
October 25: Eight Lessons Minimalism has Taught Me



Creating Space

My family keeps unconventional time.  We always have. First it was because my husband as the head athletic trainer at a very large high school worked insane hours. Then, he entered ministry. Now he doesn’t work as many hours, though still quite a few– I don’t know a dedicated pastor who doesn’t put in well over the conventional forty hours– but what he doesn’t work is conventional days. Our weekend starts Thursday evening. We hold Friday as a sacred day, a sabbath, and Saturday usually involves some form of work or ministry, at least for the morning.  Then, of course, we are back in the work week which always begins on Sunday for us.  Our strange hours and days have also led us to unconventional school years, learning in July and August, vacationing the week after Labor day when everyone else is really getting back into the work groove. We have learned that time is ours to shape how we can to suit us.  Thankfully we’ve been given the freedom to make these choices since we home school, and I stay home to do that.

I say all of this because what I’m about to talk about is a bit unconventional itself. I read this post, A Year Living Without over at Zen Habits in July.  I’ve been thinking about it since. When I decided to participate in the 31 Day Challenge, I knew I was facing some priority changes to make everything fit.  I am not a fast writer, though the more I consistently practice writing the easier it comes. My days are filled with  educating my three teens.  I could say right along with everyone else in the world, I’m so busy. I am. But some percentage of busyness comes from how I choose to spend my time, not that there is not enough of it.

Enter the concept of living without.  It isn’t merely stuff that needs minimalizing in my life, wasted time needs to be investigated too.  I haven’t determined all of the things I will live without for the next year, but I do know what I am trimming for the next month in order to make the 31-Day Challenge attainable. To begin with I need to resculpt my mornings. I am most productive in the morning hours and three days a week early morning is when I run. Running is a non-negotiable. It makes me a better person entirely. Lately, since attaining a smart phone, I waste time before getting out of bed checking email, looking at the weather, twiddling about on facebook. That ended this morning.  No more online time before 9am for me.

I’m  prone to wasting time at night after the dishes are done and there is nothing pressing on my that needs to be finished. I will fritter away time online again, even playing a few silly games.  That also will be ending today. I am resculpting my evenings to be more productive. My definition of productive for these hours will include reading, writing and any other relaxing activities that do include my family and don’t include internet.

My boundaries include a few exceptions:
1) My responsibilities at Middle Places will alter my time boundaries on Mondays only.
2) Night time hours will not completely exclude all use of internet. Home school, personal development or meal planning may happen during these hours but will limited to small segments of time. No social media

Now for the more important element of living without, filling the space.  It’s no good to simply free up time, I need a direction for my time. Mornings will include a morning routine of eating, prayer  time, making a priority list for the day, running and writing. Once the kids are awake at 8am, life moves ahead like a freight train right through the afternoon and into dinner. I am not trying to create more time space after 8am as that time is for school. School unfolding each day successfully is my priority, not a list of projects with school stuffed in the spaces between those things. Evening will also include developing a routine that will include a final sweep of the house, finishing any chores left unfinished.  I haven’t been reading as much as I would like so a lot of evening time will be devoted to that, as well as family time, and working on some personal projects I have going on. I don’t like writing at night as well, but I can use this time to finish up any writing that didn’t get done that morning as well.

I am finding that life, like my home, can be filled until every corner is crammed, every second is labeled, if I choose.  But I can also choose to intentionally create spaces that are beautiful just in being there, not because they serve a particular purpose at all.

I’m Expecting

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about expectations lately.
I have many.  Whether that is a good or bad thing doesn’t matter because anticipating the future is part of my personality, a part which has led to some of my most enjoyable seasons and also some of my hardest.  The problem begins when  expectational me hangs out with perfectionist me.  Perfectionism is a trait I am retraining slowly.  I apparently overlooked it in this area of my life as I find it running rampant.  Expectational me hopes things will be a certain way, then perfectionist me sweeps in yelling, “Wrong! wrong! wrong! None of this is how it should be. IT IS ALL A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE!”   When I allow perfectionist to be the only voice I hear, I allow myself to be robbed of anything that is good about the situation, and even worse, feeling as though I was cheated out of something that was owed.

Robbed and cheated: I’ve heard about someone who works in exactly those ways- seeking to kill, steal and destroy.

It’s a difficult realization.  I’ve been using the enemy’s own weapons against myself, and doing it so perfectly that he doesn’t even have to come near.  But as in all things, something difficult has a positive side. Despite the fact that I may have been my own worst enemy, I also have the most deeply vested interest in changing this pattern of behavior. I can control the way I respond and react, not quickly or all at once, but slowly, changing small behaviors one at a time which eventually leads to big change.

I believe expectations are good, but I also believe that I need to stop expecting events to unfold just-so.  Life happens. Usually it happens without input, advice or direction from me, but my response doesn’t have to just happen. I don’t have to let the perfectionist run around screaming and pointing out all the flaws. I could, in fact, let the wide-eyed wondering me take over. She likes to point out the beautiful things, the things that are seldom noticed by a frantically screaming perfectionist. She has mastered the art of being still and observing small miracles, but she is inherently quiet, so she seldom receives my full attention. It’s time to change that too.

The words “slow, small and still” continue to speak wholeness  over my life in the most beautiful ways.  Their very unassuming nature waits on my reflection and acceptance of what is and who I am and guides me gently in finding the answers to the differences I seek. What I am learning is not to let go of my expectations, but to temper them, and to allow reality the grace to be different then I imagined but to be beautiful anyway.

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Minimal Me

In six days, I will have been a minimalist for two years.
Two Years.

Before I became a minimalist I didn’t think of myself as someone extravagant or someone who stockpiled against future possibilities. I didn’t even intend to become a minimalist in the first place. I intended to write for thirty-one days on the idea of simplifying my belongings.  We had moved three times in three years, with a great deal of purging in each move, and we knew our housing situation at the time was temporary.

I was just dang tired of packing and unpacking boxes.

I knew that the idea of less was appealing. What I didn’t know was how much less, how many people would find it odd, and how wonderfully revealing it was to free levels of myself through simply letting things go.  The more time I spent researching and thinking and writing and assessing during those thirty-one days, the more I realized that organization wasn’t the answer, nor was closet size, storage space or square feet. In the last four years we’ve lived in the three biggest houses of my lifetime and we have less and want less than ever.  What I had been searching for fell under the loose definition of “minimalist.” I jumped in and I haven’t looked back.

In the four years since we’ve moved to Georgia, we’ve discarded literally hundreds of pounds of books, clothes, furniture, toys, electronics, home goods. You name it we’ve purged it. Most we simply drop off at local thrift stores. A few things we have given to friends who we know want them and will use and love them.  We’re also pretty good at calling trash trash, and we aren’t afraid to throw it away if it’s simply no longer beautiful or useful to anyone.  We’ve disposed of five bookcases worth of books, two dressers and at least one closet full of clothes, chairs, tables and sets of dishes. We even call our sofas disposable furniture since they work beautifully for our family, and we won’t feel like we have to take them with us if we get called away on a grand adventure.

We don’t miss the stuff.

I cannot think of one time I thought to myself, ‘I wish I hadn’t given that away’.
Not even once have a looked at an uncluttered surface or clean wall and thought, “I should get something to go there”

I feel free even though I am constantly explaining that I am not opposed to owning things, merely to the concept of owning things because everyone else has it or wants it. I am not opposed to spending money on something. I am opposed to debt, overspending and waste.  I am not an ascetic. I like beautiful things, frittering time away in the hammock, and ice cream, or a glass of wine. I like travel and leaving big tips at restaurants and surprising my kids with small treats. In fact, we have a more fun more often then we ever had with more things.

It’s been a great beginning.
Now after two years it’s time to revisit my lifestyle in writing again. Which is why I will be joining the 31 Day Project.

31 Day Project

31 Day Project

I’ll be calling my own project: Minimalism HNL (once again that’s ‘hole notha level for those of you just joining us)
Being a minimalist isn’t just about getting rid of things anymore, it’s about what to do with the time, space and money that I have now that those things are gone. It’s also about really examining all the things we still own and care for in order to determine whether or not those things align with our family priorities. It’s time to fine tune and polish. Thirty one days ought to just about do the trick!

In the Middle of Breaking




“It’s been a tenuous week.  Breakable things seem to be everywhere: a  friend finds out her mother has blood clots in the brain, cancer finally overcomes loved ones who have been waging war for over a decade, a relationship tears apart .  Trust shatters, hearts crack, tears fall. Breakable…”

You can read the rest at the Middle Places blog:  Just Click Here

She Runs, Still

I haven’t forgotten that my theme for the year is run.  Not even for one moment.

I allowed shingles followed immediately by a mission trip derail me early  in the year, and while I’m not running the consistent 4-7 miles that I was, I’m still  running.  I still plan to run long distances. I simply got sidetracked.

I read this article in Runner’s World today: Get Up and Run or Stay in Bed

There were days, many of them, during this summer, that I chose to stay in bed. The call of comfort and lassitude were all too convincing.  I’d been pushed to my limit, and I didn’t want to push myself any harder. I let myself believe “rest” and self indulgence were the answers to my problems.

But that was last-summer-me.  Since it’s now officially fall I can look at her in retrospect and click my tongue judging her harshly for her foolish decisions. I could do that, but I won’t.  I won’t because yes, this morning while the sky was still dark and the peepers still sang their morning song, I was out there.  I pushed and sweated. I covered miles, climbed hills, waved at drivers and dodged early morning frogs crossing the roads.  I did do it, but not fifteen minutes before I walked out the door, I heard the sweet song of sleep. I was oh…so…close to staying put just for this morning because I was tired, because I deserved it.

If there is one thing that I have learned while running it is that I am always going to battle that side of me that tells me  one morning won’t matter. I deserve the easy road. I’m never going to win any races anyway. I could listen to that voice; it is laced with truth in some ways.

What it doesn’t tell me is this morning would change slowly from ebony to steel grey to white pearl to shell pink and then be shot through with orange blazes. It didn’t tell me that the fog would lay low until deer bounded through swirling silvery mist trails in their wake. It doesn’t tell  me I can feel the earth turn in her seasons in those early hours. I have to find these things for myself. I have to choose to venture out where I am uncomfortable and often very tired, wondering if I can even go another foot, in order to be part of beauty.

Left to my own devices, I will always want to take the easy path.
But the easy path is seldom shot through with breath taking moments that make you forget you’ve been running uphill for so long you don’t remember how downhill feels. Running is like that too.

And I’m still running. Each step taking me farther and closer to home.


Some one asked me the other day if I am having a crisis of faith.

I had to really think about the answer but honestly?  Honestly, the answer is no.  I am not having a crisis of faith. My faith is there, as it has been for a long time now, and it’s solid, as solid as faith in an omniscient, omnipotent, unfathomable God can be. I am not having a crisis of faith.

I think I’ve simply become unacquainted with it for a time. I can see it, waiting patiently over in the corner, slightly glowing and humming with power, but I don’t want to approach it. For awhile, I was angry, I felt faith had let me down or perhaps God was even seeking to cause me pain, but I don’t feel that way anymore. I simply feel…adrift.  My faith is over there, and I am over here. We are tethered together by a strong line of grace, but we are not emotional or expressive or intimate as we once were.

There is a word for this separated state, the mystics call it acedia, more often now it’s referred to as “the desert place.”

While I’ve certainly been in times of crisis before, as well as  times of great spiritual intimacy, this place is altogether new to me. Once I stopped fighting against it, trying to be something different, trying to be someone better, to be the good Christian girl I’m supposed to be, I found there is a peacefulness to it.  It isn’t marked by striving or urgency. There is a simple pattern of obedience, without question, without reason, without expectation or anticipation. It’s ritualistic and very still.

I still pray. I believe intellectually that God, in His omnipotence, hears. I trust in His character that He cares. But I don’t feel close to ear of Abba.   I am here and He is there, and in between us is a lonely desert. Dry, barren and beautiful.  I’m waiting as my spiritual fathers waited, as Jesus Himself waited in the desert, for what I don’t know. I simply know that the desert is the place of great encounters once the waiting is done. I can be at peace knowing deserts do not last forever. Eventually the sands end, the wandering ceases and there before us is the promised land, with its battles, challenges and rewards.  But I am not ready for that yet; I’m not hurrying to arrive.

I’m not having a crisis. I’m simply having a wait.

There are worse ways to spend a season.