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.

Some days are like that, even for a Minimalist

This morning I experienced my first minimalist fail in two years: I threw away our extra coffee pot. I don’t know when I did it, though I know it was sometime during the moving process. I don’t know why I did it, possibly some form of moving delusion or purging euphoria. What I do know is that I wanted coffee and thirty seconds prior to discovering my purging error, the bottom cracked out of what I now know to be the only coffee pot in the house. . Fortunately I had not disposed of the camping coffee cups my brother purchased for us the year four hurricanes marched through Florida and we went weeks without power. Eventually, a lovely friend came to the rescue with a spare coffee pot, the result of a very recent marriage and the joining of two households.

Then my power when out.
Then my internet went out once the power came back on.

I looked outside to see if the sun had turned red or a black hole was forming but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Oh, and right now, I’m blogging from my phone.

Normally I would simply grab my things and head to Starbucks for a few minutes of wi-fi and maybe a bagel. Instead I’ll be taking my daughter to chemistry lab in a few moments. After which my mom is arriving from Tennessee.  This is why going to Starbucks is out.

It also means that once again, I am delaying the “kids stuff” post. But I do have a few observations in the midst of my first world crisis. Often times we, yes even me, hold on to things “just in case.” It’s why I kept a spare coffee pot for two years.  But there comes a tipping point in our lives where we have to decide if we are to continue to rely on the accumulation of stuff and money as wards against just in case, to keep life constantly convenient, or are we going to stop grasping so tightly to everything but the one thing that will keep us from drowning?  Let it go. We cannot be prepared for every blip, bump and eventuality. We sure can’t guard against real catastrophe with stuff and money.  When chaos strikes, and it will, it won’t be our stuff that saves us. It is entirely possible we won’t be saved at all but will have to walk right through the fire from beginning to end. When that happens, it will be what we’ve gained  in the letting go that carries us: the relationships, the family, the friends that have taken root and flourished in the open spaces of our lives.  We weren’t meant to get through life on our own, but we keep building these imaginary castles of self sufficiency on foundations of a greedy American dream at the expense of the people who are simply waiting for us to need…something.

I’m not at all saying that today was a catastrophe. It has been particularly frustrating.  Take it from me, home school becomes exponentially challenging when there is no power on a heavy technology day.  Frustration, catastrophe, these things happen no matter how many coffee pots we store in the closets.   But had I only needed to reach for a spare, I would have missed out on the pleasure of allowing someone to touch my life in the simplest of ways.   I’m glad I threw my old junk away after all.

***Edited to add: after I typed this with my thumbs on my phone, I couldn’t get it to post no matter what I did.  It took the Hunky man coming home and unsnarling all the technology to finally be able to say anything at all.

Numbering

I lost another friend today, a sister (sistah to be specific).  We probably would never have met had we lived normal lives in the normal course of time. Instead we got cancer.  Sheryl died leaving behind a husband, a nine year old daughter and a nineteen year old son. Because we shared so much for so many years, I can’t help but put myself in her place and wonder what I will think of my life when I reach the end of my days.

When I was twenty-two, I became mortal. Oh sure, we’re all mortal but there aren’t many twenty year olds who stare it in the face. I lost my hair and my eyelashes and my health and my dignity and for time we thought I’d even lost my fertility.

When I was twenty-four I became immortal again at the birth of my daughter, the first of three in the next three years.  I bargained with God for days and months. To see them be born, to see them walk, to live long enough for them to remember my smile.  I counted them off as though they were prayer beads, “Thank you Jesus, full of Grace for one more day.”

But time passed, and I began to count less frequently. Children walked and talked and ran. Days passed into years, even into decades.  I count infrequently now. Birthdays and anniversaries inspire me to look behind me at the string of beautiful shining days filled with so much more than I dared hope for so long ago when a gentle doctor spoke deadly words with tears in his eyes.

So many days.

These days are why I am passionate about living with less. It isn’t really less at all but a way to honor all the answered prayers for days I didn’t earn or deserve by living them with joy and love, not wasting them with grasping and fear.  I’m holding loosely to things because one day I will be like Sheryl, on my death’s bed looking back over my life. It won’t be the fashionable clothes or the investments or the cars or the rooms filled with things that I will want near, but the people I have made space to love deeply, the memories we have created and all the experiences I wasn’t to busy to do and enjoy.

This is why I am a minimalist.
Because life and time are finite, but they don’t have to be filled with finite things.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom. ~Ps. 90:12

31 days

Treasure

Yesterday I talked about minimalism and money. Today, I’m blogging over at Middle Places about my treasures. The simple fact is that we are all living for something regardless of your faith or belief system. My family lives to give back to the world. It is who we are at our core, and it’s the foundation for our lifestyle.

Compassion

 We want a little bit of Jesus; enough to get our sorry souls into heaven. We don’t want too much of Jesus; not enough to change the world. ~~Brian Zahnd

In my heart I am a missionary.  I didn’t know this about myself until I was married with children, which I don’t think is the lesser choice by any means. I dream of scooping up my family and setting sail on a Mercy Ship or relocating to the White River reservation in Arizona.  I conspire ways to sell everything and walk away together into the grasslands of Africa.  I wonder what the future will hold for us when so much of the world still so desperately needs Jesus.

For today, these options aren’t mine to choose. I can’t physically drop it all and leave town, so instead I raise children in my soul and in my heart…

Read the rest of today’s blog ‘Treasure’ by CLICKING HERE
If  you have questions about Compassion International or about a minimalist lifestyle, feel free to drop me a comment.

 

31 days

The Imperfect Minimalist

Why am I blogging about minimalism? Find out HERE


PicMonkey Collage a
I’ve talked a great deal this week about the reasons to clean out, pare down and dispose of our belongings. Today I wanted to share the things that I haven’t and don’t plan to dispose any time soon. Yes, I am absolutely a minimalist, but I do still have things I love. Today I am sharing the not-so-minimal areas of my home.

Starting at the top left and moving clockwise:

1. Hunky and I share one desk which means I have to be a little bit creative. Also, I have a bit of a pen and sharpie addiction. The shadow boxes and baskets hold some of my treasures, my pens, a few gifts from friends, and those odd papers that don’t fit anywhere but that you absolutely cannot throw away.  I do know what is there and where to find it, but it’s not a spartan desk top by any means.

2.  The Christmas shelf. A few years ago I decided not to put much effort into seasonal decorating anymore. In fact, other than the tree, stockings and ornaments, we don’t do really do any Christmas decorating,  though we all love Christmas. Enter, the Christmas shelf. The set of carolers and my tins, which say “Peace”,  “Joy”, and “Love” are some of my very favorite things, even when it isn’t Christmas.  I have them sitting in my kitchen window where I work every day, and where I enjoy them every day.  Even in June.

3.  This is my bedside ‘table’  It isn’t actually a table; it’s an antique crate (pictured) set atop two yarn bins (not pictured). On it you can see my stack of library books and my chapstick. I will always have chapstick by the bed. In it are various books I reference frequently, my kindle charger, some lotion for my rough ole’ runner feet, a book light and a flashlight.  I do use all the items all the time.  But it certainly doesn’t look minimal, and I love it.

4.  The picture wall. We’ve had these in our last four homes. We change the photos once a year to more recent shots to be displayed where everyone can see. It’s the happiest place in my home. I don’t ever plan to be with out it.

So there you have it. Being minimalist means making room for the things that work most effectively for me, not getting rid of things simply to do without.  I’ve shared with you a few things that work perfectly in my own home, but that seemingly defy what many would call minimalist.

31 days

10 Reasons you can’t be a Minimalist Pt. 3

This is the third in series debunking some of the excuses about minimalism. You can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE

8) I won’t know how to spend my time without housework.
This excuse is  a head scratcher to me. I’m alright with minimal house work since there are always a few things to  do in house with five people, but I have never thought to myself, “Man! I wish I were cleaning right now instead of….”  Here, again, I believe culture is stealing from us. It’s stealing the option to explore, to enjoy, to dabble,  even to sit and do nothing. We’ve bought the lie of ‘productivity is king’. If we aren’t producing, we are wasting.  We’re so busy, we’ve even forgotten how to dream.  We’ve stopped doing things for pleasure and even worse, we’ve stopped simply being still while the world goes on without us.  If we aren’t slowing enough to let our thoughts wander and our bodies rest, we begin to lose essential parts of ourselves.  We weren’t meant to run at constantly high speeds any more than we were meant to lie dormant. Minimalism is a way to create the space to rediscover who we are and what we love.   When we begin minimizing our finances as well, we have both the time and the means to try the things we allow ourselves to dream. It’s a wonderful combination!

9) I don’t want to move into a tiny house/ sell my cars/ shop only at Goodwill/ live with only 100 things…
Many people avoid minimalism because they have a set of preconceived criteria they believe must be met.  When we really stop to examine the scope and variety of minimalists who are sharing their lifestyles with the world, we can see that there isn’t a set of rules or guidelines anywhere! Some of us live in tiny houses – I would like to one day- but I currently live in a house that’s roughly 2,000 sq ft,downsized from our last house. Financially speaking it’s far and away better than smaller options we visited when we moved, as was the larger house before it. Smaller isn’t always better, sometimes it’s also not financially wiser.  Some minimalists do sell their cars. We have not since we live in a very rural area of Georgia with little to no public transportation and many miles between places we frequent.  We do own our cars so we live without car payments.  Being a minimalist isn’t the same as being an ascetic. We don’t dispose of things simply for the sake of going without. Our purpose is to remove the things that we do not love or enjoy in order to make room for the things that we do.  This is different for each and every minimalist whether we look at finances, living space, belongings or hobbies.  As I continue to strip away I am learning not to hold so tightly to the things I love. I am a shameless, wanton bibliophile who packed twenty or more boxes of books when we moved to Georgia four years ago. My love for books has not changed, but my need to possess every book I love or may one day love has diminished. When we moved most recently in June, I packed only four boxes of books, and those small ones. I am much happier allowing the library maintenance of my beloved books, managing them electronically than I am hauling them around to home after home.  Minimalism is about creating space for change; I have changed, and continue to change greatly. I still, however, have far too much yarn; I’m a work in progress.

10) I need my stuff
This is the mother of all excuses. covering every other excuse and then some.  I need my stuff.  It’s difficult to argue against. There are things that each of us need.  The problem is allowing neighbors, media, culture, geography, careers, and even our kids tell us what we need.  Instead of questioning whether we really need it, or whether it’s something someone else thinks we should have, we simply acquire. The huge house, the new car, the game system, the sea-doo,  the bedroom suite, we buy them now planning to pay for them later when we never took the time to consider why we wanted them in the first place. Now we’re stuck with a mortgage we can’t manage, cars we’re so upside down on we’ll never own them, recreation equipment that we’re too busy to enjoy. All because we of the things we need.  I know I said that minimalism isn’t a practice in asceticism, but sometimes we have to strip life all the way down to the very barest essentials to determine want from true need. Our basic needs are food, shelter and security. Most of us can’t even financially handle that. We’re one paycheck from disaster and the bills never stop coming in. We’re not secure. We don’t need our stuff; we’re owned by it.   I know. I have been here.  It’s time to strip away the cultural blinders and determine who we are and what need actually is.  Stuff is only stuff. It can’t protect us or save us or make us better or more likable. It may make us more popular, but for how long? And at what cost? Let’s stop one upping each other with our square feet, our hemi’s and our collection of kid’s sports trophies and really listen to what our soul is saying, “I’m still here. But you are selling me for things that break, rot and decay. Let them go and find me again.”

Isn’t it time we did?

31 days