Life Beyond Housework

So you’ve been through the closets and the bookshelves. You’ve donated and sold and thrown away.  You can find your batteries, your keys and the mates to all your socks.  Are you asking yourself what’s next?

I have to tell you that this is both the good part, and the hard part.

Once you’ve finished the tasks at hand, room by room, you’ll probably start reassessing and getting rid of more stuff. It’s inevitable that you will look at everything with new eyes once the process is complete.  You will find yourself working in areas you know you already covered and thinking, “Didn’t I just do this?” I’ve said it one hundred times this month, so here it is again: minimalism is a process. It is a process that will change you, and when it does, you will be a little bit addicted to the idea of less being more. Eventually though you have to stop giving away all the things lest your family put you on the curb too.  Then what?

Do you realize that most people don’t know what to do with time when it’s not crammed to the gills?  We’ve become too accustomed to always having five things clamoring for our immediate attention. It’s hard to believe that you will have time to do things that aren’t home maintenance related.  This is the part that’s messy and a little scary.  Maybe you start by reading a book for no reason, you know the one that sat on your bedside table for two years unopened and you still couldn’t bear to pass it on.  Maybe you’ll take that photography class you’ve had your eye on for so long.  Or you’ll become involved supporting a cause or organization which has tugged your heart for a long time.  You’ll try things you don’t like, and you’ll surprise yourself by trying something you never thought you would do and loving it.  You may try two or three things all at once and decide you don’t like any of them.  This is normal. We’ve been so busy, we’ve forgotten how to be truly us.  Living a life with time and space to grow and explore is a foreign concept. Sometimes, you might just sit and do nothing, though I wouldn’t admit it to many people.  They might say you are lazy, or worse yet, crazy. No one sits around just doing nothing, or if they do they ought to find better use of their time and stop wasting their lives, little knowing stillness and doing nothing are two things that make up some of the richest moments of our lives.

These are the fun moments of rediscovering who we are and what we love.  We’re finding the things we want to do and the person we want to become now that there is time for options.

Frustrating days will happen as well. Days like I had today where you run all over town, and your house feels like a cluttery mess (or as I like to call it, the pit of despair).  You’ll still sometimes have baskets of laundry waiting and dishes in the sink. You’ll snap at someone because “you just don’t have time to do that right now.”  Even when life has been refocused and relaxed, it’s still life.  It can grab you by the heels before you even know it.  There may even be seasons of time that you can’t seem to your breath or makes the pieces fit.  You’ll wonder if you are doing something wrong.  That’s normal too.  Despite all the changes we’ve made so far, we still only have a very limited sphere of control in our lives. There are times when we have to grin and control the only thing we truly can, our response.   The good news is once we’ve prioritized and minimized, life can usually regain its normal friendly flow with little effort on our part, once we’re through the rough patch.

Life after the work of minimalism is done isn’t all beach vacations and lazy afternoons, as much as I would like to tell you it is.  It may look very similar to how you lived before, but with more space and less debt.  Or, as you discover who you really are without all of the cultural expectations and wrappings placed upon your life, you may change everything entirely, moving homes and changing jobs, trying something completely different that fits you better than what you were doing before. Both of these experiences are completely normal as well.  There isn’t a right or wrong path to take once you’ve gotten through the initial hard work. That’s part of the joy of the lifestyle, the freedom to choose whatever it is that suits you and your family the best.

 

31 days button

Before I Die

I have thinkerly days sometimes. Usually when the wind blows wild and I feel restless.
Today is the perfect culmination of thinkerly conditions.  Fall is like that.
I spent some time thinking about what I want the last week of the 31 days project to hold, now that we’ve looked in my closets and discussed what’s in the pantry.  Where to we go from here?

I think we’ll spend the next week going outside the box of house keeping and talking about what to do with life once we’ve eliminated the things that weigh us down and steal from us.  Clearing our homes is just the first step, there is a life to be lived after that, and maybe its time we examined more closely what sort of life we want that to be.

A few months ago I watched this inspiring talk. It entered my mind again today in all my thinking. It’s the perfect prelude to what’s coming next. I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch it. It’s worth your six minutes.

The Bottom Line

Why am I blogging for 31 Days about minimalism? Find out HERE.

Yesterday my Hunky spent some time reorganizing the budget. We’re having another child this month, so we needed to figure out where that money would come from.

Oh, I’m sorry? Did you not know I was expecting?

We won’t actually bring a baby home from the hospital at the end of the month, but we will become financially responsible for our third Compassion child.  This may seem off-topic for a minimalist series, but the truth is, I can’t fully explore minimalism without talking about the financial bottom line.  There are many reasons that we have wholeheartedly embraced the benefits of this lifestyle, but one of the most compelling reasons for my family is what it allows us to do with our money.
We essentially live debt free.  We’re working hard on one pesky student loan from a masters degree that is dormant now that the Hunky is in ministry, but other than that, we don’t owe. We rent our home and continue to feel that home ownership is not in the foreseeable future for us.  We seldom buy new things; we seldom have a need  for them. We drive cars well into their second and third decades of life.  We choose this lifestyle because for us, the bottom line is about giving back.
Money, like time, is a finite resource. We can only make it go so far. We can bend the rules a bit, maybe even use another institution’s money, but in the end we’ve only got so much.  One of the most appealing aspects of the minimalist lifestyle is the self-examination that accompanies life stripped of excess.  The more I have scaled back, pared down and thrown out, the more my priorities are revealed.  It’s easy to say something is a priority when it’s so obscured by the details and busyness of life that no one, not even we, can be sure whether or not it is true.  But in a minimized life, it’s easy to see what we hold most dear.
I read a statement several years ago made by  Jennifer Hatmaker: If we truly lived like we love our neighbors as ourselves, wouldn’t we give away half of what we earn? (paraphrase).  That struck me hard.  I say I love my neighbor as I love myself, but am just I saying it, or am I living it? The bottom line will prove if my words and my life match.   We don’t give away 50% of our earnings, by the way. We aren’t able to do that, yet.  But we are trying every day to ensure that our lives align with our words and our faith.  Because we examine our lives closely, we are able to make choices that reflect the type of people we profess to be.

Not every person has the same bottom line as we do.  My point today isn’t to heap judgement on anyone who has debt, who barely makes ends meet, who doesn’t have any idea what is they want or believe, or who knows what they want, and it doesn’t have anything to do with giving away money. My point is to say that you can  have the freedom to live an authentic life and for my family, minimalism is a tool to accomplish this.  A minimalist lifestyle isn’t one of stringent rules and constant sacrifice; it has proven quite the opposite. Because of our choices we are able to be extravagantly generous..  We have not only financial security, but abundance to do with what we choose.

This month, we’ve chosen to have a child with Compassion.
I can hardly wait to see his or her little face for the very first time.

(If you are interested in learning more about Compassion International, feel free to leave a comment, or stop back by tomorrow when I will talk a bit more about it. I’m always happy to answer any questions.)

31 days

Gypsy Life

There is an old Yiddish saying, “Man plans; God laughs”

Four years ago my family became gypsies. Before that time we lived in one town for sixteen years. It was Hunky’s home town so he had many years invested there before we met in college in my own home town. Four years prior to becoming gypsies, we bought our first home.

Did I mention it was in Florida? Did I mention we lived three miles from the ocean?
Yes, we’d have stayed.

Man plans; God laughs.

A series of life altering surprises for which we could never have prepared, led to a sudden out of state move and eventually to our losing the house in Florida. We were the unfortunate victims of buying at the top of the real estate bubble and needing to unload after the collapse. Long story short – foreclosure, bankruptcy and two people generally burned on the idea of home ownership.

We’ve rented three different homes since that time. All of them have been larger by far than the home we owned. One of them was so large, over three thousand square feet, that I began to question my own sanity. Before our move to Georgia, we’d never really questioned our pursuit of the American dream. Own a home, sell it to buy a larger home. Bigger is better; newer is best. Let the bank provide the means if we didn’t have it. But banks no longer like the looks of us, and our foray into home ownership had been stressful and expensive beyond our imagining.  It was also a mark of permanency, a kind of permanency I haven’t regained.

Life in the largest dwelling I ever intend to inhabit led to a new perspective on space and stuff, and the time and responsibility the two require. After taking care of my family and educating my girls, I spent far too much of my time maintaining my home and yard.  I began to resent the house and the time I had to spend taking care of it, but I dreaded the thought of packing everything in boxes again.  Sure we’d thrown things away when we’d left Florida, but we’d also lived in our first Georgia home for two years with a storage room filled with unpacked boxes.  We’d changed locations but we hadn’t yet changed our mindset about our stuff.

Two years after moving to Georgia we moved again, to a slightly smaller home with the most incredible view imaginable. The picture that I am using through out my 31 Days theme was taken on the boat dock of that home.  Our generous friends offered us a beautiful, temporary  place to live. From the beginning we knew time was short until we would be packing our things again.  I began in earnest looking at each item we owned and weighing the reasons why we kept it.  I discovered that my desire to keep things was directly proportional to my desire to pack and unpack it again. From clothes we never wore to books we’d never read, even after owning them for a decade or more, I was losing my desire to hang on to things for ‘just in case’. If we weren’t using it this week, it began to seem silly to keep hauling it around. Only our Christmas tree and one box of lights and ornaments are allowed to sit around in boxes.
Our most recent move at the end of May this year, was our easiest yet, and I’m still sorting and resorting with another move in mind.

I don’t love the process of packing and moving everything we own, but I don’t dread it any more either.  I have loved living in the vastly different houses have since we began living more like gypsies and less like all our faith was in the American Dream.  We’ll probably move again next year. I’ll be ready.

31 days

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

 

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.