The Good Stuff Ain’t Stuff

The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it. – George Carlin

I don’t know if you remember George Carlin’s bit about stuff. His stand-up routine was about people and their relationship with their stuff. He jokes about storing stuff, packing stuff and buying bigger houses to keep all of the stuff. It is quite funny and really rings true. It is considered normal to spend a lot of our money on stuff. It is also normal to spend time shopping for stuff, organizing stuff and repairing our stuff. Then people have yard sales so they can sell their stuff, and people go to garage sales so they can buy other peoples stuff. There are businesses like self storages to store your extra stuff and stores that only sell stuff that you can put your stuff into.

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A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. ~George Carlin

Imagine if we stopped buying stuff and started making do with what we already had. Imagine having no car payment or not even owning a car. Imagine having no more credit card bills. If we stopped buying so much stuff then we would need less money. We could move into smaller spaces because we would not need room for all of the stuff.  The smaller place would cost less money. It would take less time to organize. If we stopped buying so much stuff and moved to a small place we could even reconsider what we did for a living. If we did not need so much money then we could save more. This may allow us to do things like travel more or have more adventures. This may also give us more happiness because we can do something meaningful that we love for a living. We would not be driven by our paycheck. We could give more money to charity instead of spending it on useless stuff. We may even have less stress being out of the rat race and live longer. What if we just did not care about stuff anymore? How could our lives change?

How can our lives change if you did not care about stuff anymore?

  • Need less money
  • Have a meaningful career
  • Less stress
  • More free time
  • More traveling or adventures
  • Live longer
  • Give more to charity

Getting the stuff out of the way leaves room for the good stuff. And the good stuff ain’t even stuff at all.

I Made Up My Mind by Minimizing

Making Heads or Tails of It

When I decided that I wanted to get rid of my stuff and become a Minimalist I had no idea that the simple action of getting letting go of my belongings could affect every single other part of my life. One area of my life that has changed the most is decision making. When I was about twelve years old a dear adult friend, who was into astronomy, told me that that the reason I had trouble making decisions was because I was a Libra. She assured me that this was a quirk in my personality and it was endearing to be indecisive. At least I wasn’t a Flippingcrabby Crab or a bull headed Bull! I continued my life taking longer than everyone to choose simple things like ice cream flavors or what to wear and explaining that this was my handicap and to just be patient. This indecisiveness continued into adulthood where I was eventually forced to make decisions on things like hobbies, career and marriage. Unfortunately the tools in my decision-making toolbox were so underdeveloped even a caveman would have scoffed. I tormented myself by writing lists of pros and cons. I asked countless friends to tell me what to do. Eventually I was tired of doing nothing so I started to just pick something without rhyme, reason or justification. I just learned to say yes or no. I was the quickest decision maker both sides of the Mississippi. I also made some very bad choices.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. ~ RUSH

Beware of What You Don’t Ask For… It Might Not Come True.

Eventually I married Smiley (now this is a choice I could live with!) and together we were about as Wishy-Washy as they come.  As a “self-helper” I vowed to work on our issues as individuals and as a couple.  We tried for years to goal-set and make improvements to our personalities a priority.  In our case many of our struggles were the same, and this made it easy and difficult.  We had some of the same things to work on so we could be understanding and empathetic of each other (EASY). We were not able to pick up each other’s slack as we were both making the same mistakes (HARD). Most of our issues revolved around indecisiveness. We agreed that we should have better time management, control our budget and invest our money. Being indecisive was more serious than just taking too long to decide where to eat.  We wanted to create a future, but neither of us could narrow down what we really wanted. We weren’t sure if we should buy a house or keep the flexibility of renting in case we wanted to move out of state or travel full time. We both stayed in good paying jobs that we disliked because we didn’t know what else we wanted to do. City life sounded exciting with culture, good food and a music scene. Country life would give us more nature, privacy and allow us to have animals. We had all kinds of ideas for careers that would suit us, however we stayed comfortable in jobs that were stagnant and not meaningful to us. We began filling our need for meaning and happiness with endless shopping and partying. Eventually we started arguing and nit-picking at each other and living a life of “going through the motions”.  Despite the desire to improve, we remained stuck in our old behaviors.  Our failed attempts brought us stress, anxiety and eventual disappointment and distain. We had the best intentions but nothing had changed.

Then I discovered Minimalism

The day that I decided I wanted to take a stab at getting rid of our belongings my world began to change. Everyone close to me was very supportive, however giving it the usual whole shaker of salt that goes along with most of my self-improvement ideas. They were anticipating this to fizzle out like other notions from my past. But I knew this was different. The more I read, the more I researched, the more experiments that I did, the more clutter that I removed the more clarity I had. When I saw my friends socially I could not stop talking their ears off about my new adventure. The physical act of removing items from my home gave me more of a buzz than any shopping ever did. I was addicted. I had become a Minimalaholic! Beyond the bliss was a feeling of comfort. I suddenly knew in my heart that I did not have to worry about what I wanted out of life anymore. I knew deep inside that minimalism would bring me there. Minimalism gave me a calm certainty that things would develop naturally without force because for once in my life I was open to receive. By de-cluttering my home and my life my mind was also becoming clear. This newfound clarity helped me focus and easily come up with some decisions for my future. For the first time in my life I knew what I wanted!

If you only have one beach blanket you do not have to decide which beach blanket to grab. By using tons of these little no brainers, getting ready to leave the house became simpler, easier, more pleasurable, and yes, faster.

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Minimize and the Livin’ is Easy…

The first thing I noticed when we started to get rid of our stuff is that it took less time to get out of the house. Things were rarely lost anymore as everything was clutter-free and all belongings in a designated home. By limiting our options it was simple and fast to just grab & go. It took far less time to get ready because my closet was organized and limited. This resulted in less stress over making the wrong decision because everything in my closet fit me well, I loved it and it all mixed and matched. I literally saved hours a week!

Minimalism did not only affect our timeliness, it also affected our stress levels as well. It’s far less stressful to leave the house on time and arrive at our destination on target. Our car rides were nicer. Smiley stopped having road rage. I was not nagging and we arrived at our destination feeling happy with each other and ourselves. We argued less and smiled more. This was outstanding! Getting rid of our stuff was making us get along better!

Keeping it Simple in the Kitchen

Planning meals, food shopping and cooking have always been a source of stress in our home. Add to that I am a vegetarian and actually prefer to eat vegan most of the time. We have both come to compromise so that we can enjoy our meals and can eat together. I am thrilled that we finally have harmony in our kitchen. I am very conscious of what I eat and Smiley has jumped on board to become a healthier eater as well (I am very proud of him). By making our food shopping and planning as simple as possible it has turned our food chores into enjoyable activities.  We both love cooking and nobody is going to stop us if we decide we want to go off and make a complicated gourmet meal. We have not done that yet and have continued to enjoy simple, fresh and mostly plant based meals.

 

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FASHION FLASH FROM THE FORMER FASHIONISTA

I do not believe that I have traded in style for minimalism. Instead of chasing trends and buying seasonal clothing I buy high quality items that fit well. I keep the same jewelry on every day and do not change it. I use one handbag so I can grab & go and I only have twelve  pairs of shoes (including slippers). I spend very little time and money on shopping anymore and I feel more in control of my personal style than I ever have before.

  

What About the Important Stuff?

What about more important life decisions that need to be made? I approach the decision making process much differently than I did when I was a teenage Libra. When faced with a decision sometimes I revert back to my old self and become overwhelmed, tense and my breathing becomes shallow. Then I remember to just look for the simple answer. The simple answer, so far, has always been the correct one. Minimalism to me is so much more than having less stuff. It’s taking the clutter out of the situation. I can now take the time to look, breathe, reflect and even sleep on it. I can put myself into the zone of how it would feel with each choice and discover how each choice would make me feel. I find now that I have given myself less distraction, less daily decisions and more clarity. I can go back to my old ways of just picking something.  But this time I can trust that my choices are going to be good ones.

 

Too Soon to Share?  Too bad!  I’m Ready to Share!

Maybe I am writing this blog prematurely. We have not figured out all of our hopes and dreams yet. We have not decided on buying a house or exactly where we want to live. We are both still at our stagnant jobs. The reason that I wanted to write and post this now is because we are making steady progress,we know we are heading in the right direction and the ideas are arriving organically. We have started to discover our true passions. We have momentum. We have direction. Decisions are arriving to us without weekly “meets” and our minds are de-cluttering so we can relax and enjoy the things that we do have. And we know what we do have we cherish and love.  We are finally enjoying the journey.

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The things that I thought were making me happy were the very things holding me back from happiness.

Additional Benefits We Have Discovered Through Minimalism:

  • Cleaning is easy
  • House is always tidy and ready for company
  • Things don’t get misplaced
  • Getting dressed takes four minutes
  • Dramatically reduced food waste
  • Need less money
  • Shopping is a necessity not a hobby

 

Some Recommended Blogs:

To help with meal planning, a must read blog is Stone Soup http://thestonesoup.com/blog/. The home page just happens to talk about mistakes in meal planning right now.

To help with the shopping list and making the hour long grocery store run down to 2o minutes is Project 333 for the Kitchen http://theproject333.com/kitchen/.

Baking is a passion of mine and I have been having “Muffin Top Friday’s” each Friday and baking a healthy breakfast muffin or bread to enjoy on the weekend as a treat for us. I find great recipes for baking and simple meals here www.theminimilistbaker.com (try the sweet potato and almond butter muffins).

 

Who took the Fun out of Happiness?

Here’s How Fun Got in the Way of Real Happiness.

During my research on happiness I had a huge wake up call. For years I had been confusing happiness with fun. “Crazy-busy” was my standard answer whenever anyone asked me how I had been. I was constantly running around with an extremely full social calendar and unable to ever say “no” to anything. I would have shown up to the opening of an envelope! I eventually discovered that my search for fun was making me unhappy and was a generator of stress and anxiety. I was nursing hangovers, not gettpippy at Disney on caraseling enough sleep and eating on the go. I would rather party than stay home and practice music or visit with my family. I was selfish and lonely. My addiction to fun caused me to spend money on unnecessary items that added on to my growing pile of belongings that bogged me down. I was distracting myself from the work and effort involved in becoming happy with excitement, thrills and good times.

Fun enhances life for those already happy. But for the unhappy, it’s a diversion from their unhappiness. http://meanttobehappy.com

 

I decided instead of chasing after cheap thrills I would find out what makes people in the world truly happy and get to work.

Components of Happiness for All:

  1. Money – Rich people are not any happier than middle class people, however poverty can be a great cause for stress and unhappiness.
  2. Social Bonding – Belonging to a club or organization with other like-minded people with a common goal or belief.
  3. Flow – Activities that create a Zen like state. This could include playing an instrument, juggling or being a great bartender.
  4. Sleep – Regular sleep and naps.
  5. Strong relationships – Taking time to nurture intimate relationships.
  6. Compassion – Selfless acts for the benefit of others. Living for something that is bigger than one’s self.
  7. Gratitude – Practicing Gratitude.

I am working on reaching a balance of fun and happiness. I am no longer worried about making an appearance at every party or event. I am happy to stay home and write, read or play with my instruments. I try to unplug and not be addicted to my electronic devices, enjoying moments of quiet and dare I say a little bit of boredom once in a while. I am at peace with my home not being perfectly decorated and spending New Years Eve just hanging out. Some people may say that I am not as fun as I used to be, however I am so much happier.

You have just read “Who Took the Fun out of Happiness” here first on www.ilvebigandsmall.com  Please subscribe if you would like me to e-mail you when a new post comes out, approx. once a week.  Thanks for reading Live Big and Small!

My First Minimalist Game

It’s time for Spring Cleaning so I thought I would start this month by sharing with you my very first Minimalism exercise. This game, which I learned from “The Minimalists”, started my journey towards leading a simpler life with less stuff. wwwtheminimalists.com

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” ~The Minimalists

The game is more fun if you find a partner to play along with who is interested in shedding some of their excess stuff as well. On the first day of the month you both get rid of one item. On the second day of the month you both get rid of two items. On the third day of the month you get rid of three items and so on. The one who can go the longest wins. If you IMG_1791both make it to the end of the month, you both win. You can get rid of clothes, household items, décor or anything tangible! You can donate, gift, sell or toss your stuff in the trash. You must have your chosen items out of your home and your life by midnight each day. This game will seem easy at first, but just wait until you reach the second week where you are both trying to find over a dozen items per day to eliminate!

Keep in touch on how the game is going for you. Share pictures of your progress on Twitter or on Facebook.