Clearing my mind. (Minimalism, post 6.)

In a warm comment the other day, a new subscriber (hello!)  wisely noted that “everybody’s version of minimalism is going to be different.” I loved that she wrote that. Her words inspired me and got me thinking about minimalism in a broader sense, leading me to ask myself:

What am I hanging onto in my mind that might be creating clutter? My answers:

  • The past… those negative parts of my past with nothing left to teach or offer me.
  • People… those who do not share my belief – sometimes long-held – that we’re connected in some meaningful way.

Getting at the heart of it, I’m becoming aware of the difference between decaying memories vs. thriving ones, and true, lasting personal connections vs. insincere or transient ones. Am I hanging onto rotten memories? Am I holding onto the belief that there’s a relationship where there isn’t one, or where there was never one?

Sour memories… I’ve been working to put them at rest.

Relationships that have been chimeras all along… I’ve been realizing and processing the illusory nature of them. It’s painful, somewhat, but it’s time to minimalize.

I write this without bitterness, in the spirit of realism.

 

through the water glass

 

Decluttering my mind has become a part of my minimalism journey. Just as I need to let go of things without personal value, meaning, and purpose, I need to let go of memories without without value, meaning, and purpose. I need to learn to let go of people, too. I need to work on clearing my emotional cache.

To me, minimalism is really about that… letting go. We’ve been hanging onto things, and now we’re striving to free ourselves from those attachments. Making this endeavor in a realm beyond the physical feels just as cleansing. To clear the mind of clutter is to make more space for treasured memories and real connections.

 

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Brought to you by my bookcase. (Minimalism, post 5.)

Going through my bookcase the other day, I came across the literature that rooted the notion of minimalism in my mind years ago. It’s a book by Meryl Starr called The Personal Organizing Workbook: Solutions for a Simpler, Easier Life, published in 2006. Starr had published its prequel in 2003: Home Organizing Workbook: Clearing Your Clutter, Step by Step. Starr had already been an internationally renowned expert in this field.

The passage in Starr’s book that interested me the most was this:

When you walk into a room or open a closet door and you can feel your energy just drop, that’s your signal that you’ve found a perfect place to begin. Enter this problem area, close your eyes, and imagine what that space would look like with nothing at all in it. Just thinking about that empty space, you may notice your spirits beginning to lift already. Next, ask yourself: if you lost all that stuff, what would you really miss? Make a mental list… no peeking!

Based on this philosophy, she succinctly advises on various areas. The closet, for instance. She offers step-by-step guidance:

  • Get some boxes
  • Empty everything completely off the racks in your closet, and throw it all on the bed where you can see it
  • Divide your clothes into categories: shirts, pants, dresses, etc.
  • Pick out your favorites in each category… you can put them back in your closet.
  • Pull out items you don’t like, things that need repair, and clothes that don’t fit
  • Look at the pile you have left over. This is your pile of maybes – maybe keep, maybe donate, maybe sell. To help guide you when going through the items, ask yourself these questions: “When was the last time I used this?”, “Do I love this?”, “Do I have another one similar to it?”, “How does this make me feel?”

 

Meryl Starr’s book from 2006 (my minimalism journey inspiration)

 

I bought Starr’s book in 2006 and did absolutely nothing with it except take her initial quiz, acknowledge that some minimalizing was in order, and then fantasize about doing it. I may have made a false start or two; something held me back from getting started in earnest. Starr’s book lingered in the back of my mind, though, as her book has lingered on my bookshelf. It all came back as I encountered my post-its while flipping through the book the other day.

It’s funny that the one thing I (so far) refuse to minimalize is books, and that’s why I still have Starr’s book encouraging minimalizing!

That bit of personal history aside, on with my minimalism updates! I don’t have many. Since my last update about a month ago:

1). I replaced the high-tops I’d given away; the new shoes provide much better support with their thick, quilted ankles. They actually help me to keep my balance while doing lunges.

2). With reluctance, I went to Target to look for a dress (needed for a specific event), and I DID NOT allow myself to be lured by the camo bomber jacket that Target obnoxiously positioned between the dresses and the fitting rooms. I recognize a trap when I see one. I did not fail at minimalism that day.

3). I combed through our coat closet and identified five pieces of outerwear I can do without. I’d attempted this area before with no success. Meryl Starr’s book helped me over that hurdle.

With the holidays upon us, our house looks less minimal than before. We’ve got our Christmas tree up and decorated, wreaths, string lights, and other bits of festive decor. It’s cheery and fun, but I’m looking forward to baring the house more than ever in the new year.

…but more steps forward than back. (Minimalism, post 4)

Minimalism updates.

Target is the biggest threat to minimalism on earth. To my minimalism effort, at least.

I don’t even want to talk about it.

 

Pictures speak louder than words.

 

Can you even see the cozy fluffiness of that top? I don’t think so. You had to be there to feel it.

To my credit, though, the following items have gone into the new Goodwill pile since my last update:

  • 16 tops (mostly t-shirts and tank tops)
  • 4 jackets/coats
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of shoes (Converse – now I just have 1 pair)
  • 2 sports bras

This is progress, fuzzy polar bear jammies aside.

You may be looking at this wondering how many clothes I had to begin with. I’ve already donated a lot… how can there be more?! Well, things like t-shirts proliferate, especially when you have a t-shirt problem. I admit to my t-shirt problem and also to my sleepwear problem, but I’m aware and I’m remedying them with modifications (i.e. I donate a t-shirt when I get a new one.) The polar bear jammies are, so far, the one exception to my new minimalism ethos.

We’re still loving minimalism as a way of life. It feels good to have less, and it fits into our overall survival/emergency plan, too. In the event that we have to GTFO of dodge, we’re going to be readily mobile, rather than encumbered by stuff. We’re getting there.

By the way, I might be seen wearing that fluffy polar bear pajama top around town. I could get away with it. It’s more like a sweater than a pajama top, and it looks great over black leggings.

Less is everything. (Minimalism.)

It has begun!

Minimalism is happiness, I’m finding. Less is not just more. Less is everything.

In all actuality, I don’t have as much “stuff” as the average person. Since I want to own as little as possible, though, what I do have seems to be a lot. I’ve been going through it slowly, over small increments of time, and I’m happy with the dent I’ve made so far.

There’s a growing mountain of stuff in our dining room area. (The wall that divides our living room from the dining area conceals it, so you don’t see it when you walk into the house.)

This project has been interesting as well as cleansing. I’ve found things. I’m keeping a small, important thing that I didn’t know I’d lost. I’m setting aside (for donation) things that I didn’t know I still had.

Items high in sentimental value go in a separate box; some of these are probably higher in dollar value, too. They’re nice things. I’ll gift them.

I’m sparing items used as decor around the house. I’m sparing books, as previously mentioned. Household items such as kitchenware will be evaluated with Callaghan at some point, as he’s been wanting to trim that down, too.

I made a sweep through my makeup case and modest collection of personal products, wincing at the waste and vowing to stop accumulating such things.

Looking at my shoes, I realized that I have three pairs of a brand that doesn’t align with my ethics, so I did a lot of research and honed in on a brand that I’ll feel good wearing. They’re not cheap, but they’re not much more expensive than the others. (Hopefully, the new pair will feel as good and perform as well as the ones I’m replacing. They’re athletic shoes for working out.)

This is a good example of how I’m moving forward: purchasing one pair of shoes to replace three. To avoid accumulation, I’ll donate an item if I acquire something new of the same kind. The plan is to replace things, rather than to add to them.

Progress report #1 conclusion: I’m happy paring down my life, and I’m happy to make donations out of the effort. Nothing is a waste if it can benefit someone else. (Plus, donations are tax-deductible.)

All in all, minimalism feels right to me. I’m looking forward to continued progress!

Free Wheelin,’ or Wheel-Free

We’ve been in Austin for a month now, and we’re finding it to be a pretty kick-ass place. We’re enjoying the process of discovering our new city, and we’re transitioning well, overall.

One thing we’ve done is we’ve freed ourselves from the hassles of ownership as much as possible. We don’t own cell phones, property or vehicles. For phones, we use Magic Jacks (we each have our own). We rent an apartment, and we walk and take the bus to get around. Thus, there are no phone bills, mortgage payments or auto-related expenses in our monthly budget. Not having a car is also economically beneficial in that it eliminates the ability to give in to instant gratification impulses… there’s no jumping into a car on a whim to go do stuff or buy stuff we maybe can’t afford. We have to mindfully plan our excursions and make decisions about what’s a). necessary, and/or b). worth our time and money, and what’s not.

At first, the idea of going wheel-free unnerved me somewhat, just a little bit, as I’d been as accustomed as anyone to the independence of mobility inherent in having a vehicle. My last vehicle – in Arizona – was a little red Chevy truck I’d named “McKenna.” I loved her and considered her to be a member of my family (I can be obsessive like that. And, okay, I’ll admit that I have a thing for Chevy trucks). (No, I did not have a decal of Calvin pissing on the Ford logo.)

In reality, it turns out that being wheel-free is anything but a hardship. It’s actually incredibly liberating, and it makes so much sense for us, it’s almost ridiculous. Our new lifestyle is quickly becoming second nature. We love not having to deal with parking and getting gas. Also, not having a car keeps us active… we walk an average of 10 miles per week, just going around doing our errands.

Our biggest surprise source of glee has been the bus. The bus-line we use the most is the 1M, and it’s fantastic. The 1M picks us up right in front of our apartment, and it cuts south through the Austin metro area, taking us almost everywhere we want to go, from N. Lamar to Guadalupe to Congress and beyond. Mainly, we go downtown. The 1M takes us there directly… no transfers!

The advantages of riding the bus are numerous. For one thing, it means that someone else is driving, so we’re free to stare out the window and make nifty discoveries. (For instance, thanks to the 1M, we discovered the Hyde Park neighborhood, which we love.) We don’t have to pay attention to the road. We can talk, daydream and even take a short power nap. All we have to do is be aware of when to pull the stop bell.

We’ve yet to have a bad bus experience (though I’m sure we will at some point… those are the odds). So far, the bus has always been either on time or early. It’s beautifully air-conditioned, meaning that we get to travel in a comfortably chilled environment, rather than in a hot car with cold air blasting onto our faces. We enjoy the diversity on the bus, all the proverbial walks of life we encounter. The mix of people includes students, yuppies, hipsters, housewives and gangsters; both white and blue-collar employees heading to work, everyone from engineers to artists to construction workers to librarians; homeless, disabled – sometimes with helping dogs – parents and teenagers. There are children and elderly. There are loners and lovers. There are groups of friends. Shades of skin represent the full spectrum of the human rainbow, and it’s beautiful. There are hundreds of stories on a bus at any given time, and with my penchant for people-watching, I love to image what some of those stories might be. A bus ticket scores you free entertainment, too, because human beings can be pretty funny creatures.

The first time we rode the bus, we were sitting there talking when an old guy got on, loudly singing a Mac Davis song:

“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble/When you’re perfect in every way…”

He walked down the aisle past us, continuing to sing.

“I can’t wait to look in the mirror…”

Then he doubled back and stuck his face in front of Callaghan’s to sing him the final line:

“Cause I get better lookin’ each day!”

Which caused us all to crack up. See? How often do you get to burst out in spontaneous laughter while driving? Instead of cursing out traffic conditions and other peoples’ stupid driving behaviors, we’re being comically serenaded by a happy crazy person. Awesome!

Here, check out the view from our favorite bus:

 

Heading downtown on the 1M, our go-to bus-line. We jump on the 1M several times a week, at least.

Heading downtown on the 1M, our go-to bus-line. We jump on the 1M several times a week, at least.

 

Crossing the Congress Ave bridge

Crossing the Congress Ave bridge

 

It seems there are as many different architectural styles in Austin as there are types of people. I love them all.

It seems there are as many different architectural styles in Austin as there are types of people. I love them all.

 

Have I mentioned that Austin's a pretty friendly place?

Have I mentioned that Austin’s a pretty friendly place?

 

Coffee on every corner! Seems that way, anyway.

Coffee on every corner! Seems that way, anyway.

 

I posted this on Facebook yesterday: Tuesday afternoon, we were on the bus going downtown and I took this pic of the Texas state capitol not knowing that a badass Texas state senator called Wendy Davis was inside at that very moment, doing badass things. (Like her or not, she is a badass.) This is what history in the making looks like from the outside.

I posted this on Facebook yesterday: Tuesday afternoon, we were on the bus going downtown and I took this pic of the Texas state capitol not knowing that a badass Texas state senator called Wendy Davis was inside at that very moment, doing badass things. (Like her or not, she is a badass.) This is what history in the making looks like from the outside.

 

"Stay alert to stay alive" - there's a reason why the military teaches you to live by these words. You want to be aware when a demon dumpster tries to sneak up behind you and your friends.

“Stay alert to stay alive” – there’s a reason why the military teaches you to live by these words. You want to be aware when a demon dumpster tries to sneak up behind you and your friends.

 

Here's a little tribute to one of my favorite actors. Every time we pass this, I think of Christopher Walken, so finally, I took a picture of it.

Here’s a little tribute to one of my favorite actors. Every time we pass this, I think of Christopher Walken, so finally, I took a picture of it.

 

say "fromagggge!" or "camembert!!!"

say “fromagggge!” or “camembert!!!”

 

Making a conscious decision to not own a car is the best thing we’ve done, and we’re lucky that we have this option – I know that not everyone does. We, too, might need to get a car one day, for whatever reason, though we sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. So we’re going to enjoy this freedom for as long as we can. It’s just a pleasure to get around without speeding mindlessly through our day. We can see what’s around us when we walk and ride the bus. Plus, we’re no longer contributing to the pollution problem by adding an engine of our own to the mix. If we ever do want or need a car for a few hours, we can rent one, or use Zip Car or Car 2 Go (we see Car 2 Go Smart cars all over Austin). Win!