About Me

KonMari clothes…again

If you’ve read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’ll remember that Marie Kondo, the books author, mentions that once you go through her system and tidy everything, she has never had anyone slip back into untidiness.

She may have met her match in myself!

That might be hyperbolic.  After all, I haven’t done everything, but I have gone through my clothes before.  At one point in my life I was seriously considering moving into a tiny house so I had culled my clothing into a capsule wardrobe and it was working well.  Then I took a job, moved, didn’t get a tiny house, got a significant pay raise which led to lifestyle inflation, and here we are.  

I recently tripped, broke my foot, and had to have surgery.  I was stuck at home and the amount of clutter around began to weigh on me even more.  Some of it was literally getting in the way of me just moving around my space safely, as well as weighing on me mentally.  Luckily I am now working on getting back into walking in normal shoes and I’m able to tackle the literal mess of my life.

As Marie suggests, I started with clothes.  Here are photos of my closet.  It’s a bit cluttered because I don’t have a storage space so my decorations for holidays along with boxes of sentimental items that need to be gone through are also in here.  Oh, and my cats litter box.

The vast majority of the clothing you see here will stay.  I already know that there are some items on the side with dresses and pants that I know will go.  A lot of those were aspirational purchases.  You know, the “oh, I like that, I want to be the girl who wears these things a lot so I’ll buy them and wear them (but never will more than once)” sort of purchase.  They will be posted on a Facebook group for the designer and will go to a good home.

You should also know that I have already gone through a lot of my accessories and sold several of them on The Real Real.  This declutter is mainly about my dresser/armoir.

If you aren’t familiar with the KonMari method, here’s a summary.  Take everything in a category, and she means EVERYTHING, and put it all in one pile.  For clothing she wants you to take every item of clothing and pile it up.  That includes taking them off of hangers if it’s in your closet, each sock, coats…all of it.  Take a pause now to go look some up on YouTube or do an image search in Google to see the sheer size of some of these piles, I’ll be here when you come back.

Main section of my closet
Accessories and seasonal items
Small accessories and sweaters
A skirt I intend to sell.
Pay no attention to the clutter in the background
Clean laundry!
Drying laundry!
Coat closet

My pile was decidedly smaller than those.  My dresser has 5 drawers.  The top is for jeans and lounge pants, some leggings.  Below that are pajamas, t-shirts of the geek variety, and sweatshirts.  Next up are work out clothes including sports bras, yoga grippy socks and weight-lifting gloves.  Finally we have bras, socks, undies.  The 5th drawer currently houses my scrubs (not going anywhere) and some random things like photos from a Game of Thrones convention.

Piles!

Here you can see my “pile” of clothes.  You will note there is one skirt, a green one, that I pulled from my closet knowing that it is going to be decluttered.

I had already begun to go through this pile when I remembered that I needed to snap a photo.  KonMari tells you to pick up each item and ask yourself “does this spark joy?”.  If you’re not sure what that means, then pick up an item you know you love.  Hold it in your hands then pay attention to how you feel emotionally, and if you feel it physically.  Do you feel a little excitement in your stomach?  Do you feel a sense of calm come over you?  Did you get a little smile when you held it?  Whatever you feel, that is the joy she is mentioning.

Not many of these spark joy.

Some of these I did end up keeping out of practicality purposes.  For a little bit of insight, I am a Game of Thrones fan (see above mention of the convention I have attended).  I have several GOT themed shirts, most of which I don’t wear often though I do at conventions.  I have two from the same company.  One has the phrase “I drink and I know things” on it in gold, and the other has “Be a dragon” on the other.  I am a bigger fan of Daenerys Targaryen than Tyrion, so the Danny shirt gives me more joy to wear.  I am decluttering the “drink” shirt.  After you hold the item, thank it for 

At the end of the reckoning of my dresser, I was able to declutter

2 bras

2 sets of pj’s

5 socks 

2 pairs of stockings

1 slip

3 pairs of underwear

1 unmatched sock

And 14 items of shirts and leggings and 1 pair of jeans

All for a total of 30 items

This equated to 1 empty drawer.

Now, what will I do with these?  Glad you asked.

Some are automatic donates/trash due to amount of wear.  Some I will take to a clothing consignment shop (the one I usually go to here is Clothes Mentor but you can find some in your area).  I’m also hoping to sell a Kanken backpack and a purse I got from Target as well.  I also had in a box items I had already planned to declutter including some tank tops and at least 1 sweater, so really this totals well over 30 items total but I didn’t include those because they’re not in the photos I already took.  I packed a lot of these into a backpack I had been struggling to declutter but decided I no longer needed.

It feels really nice to have that empty drawer!  It also feels nice to have an item checked off of my To-Do list, something I’d been putting off that really didn’t take a lot of time or effort to complete.  

The next step is to fold the items, and then organize.  I had already folded the vast majority of the items when they were in the dresser so this was easy.  KonMari has a specific method of folding which I had incorporated into my life in the past.  I don’t fold exactly like her though.  I have a folding board (yes, I’m OCD enough to need a board) but it helps me get all items the same size.  When I’m finished folding an item with the board I then fold it in half again and it ends up being the size of a KonMari folded item.  Since I only have two pairs of jeans and a few pairs of lounge pants I don’t fold them to stand up.  I could, but I don’t need to, and I don’t need the space.  My non-work pants all fit into one drawer already.  If you’re curious and want to know more, you can look up how to KonMari fold on Google/Instagram/YouTube/Pinterest for a plethora of sources and examples.  She also has a method for hanging items.  She says to go from left to right in your closet with the darkest, longest, heaviest items to the left and lightest, shortest, brightest items on the right.  I had already been following this mostly.  I personally arrange my items in reverse ROYGBIV order.  Each color is then arranged with tanks on the left, followed by short sleeves, then long sleeves.  You can see that best in my first photo posted above.  

I had already sold one item from my coat closet and will list two more.  I struggle with my thick winter coat.  I live in a subtropical climate but it does get snowy and very cold occasionally.  I haven’t used it this winter season but that doesn’t mean I won’t.  I used it quite a bit in 2018.  Weather here really is hit or miss.

Next in the KonMari method is books.  This includes magazines, which I have very few of if any.  I had already gotten rid of some books before I began this process (again).  This is a difficult section for a lot of people so keep an eye out for a post on this soon to see how it goes for me.  Perhaps it can serve as inspiration for you!

Social Distancing, a journal

I started writing in my journal, but the pages are a little short so I thought I’d try transitioning to online. It’s not exactly about minimalism, but it is certainly around simplifying.

As everyone at this point knows, in Nov/Dec 2019, there were new cases of viral pneumonia that started popping up in Wuhan, China. It has since then spiraled out of control and is now global. The good news is that through China’s extreme control of social distancing and shutting down large portions of its economy and cities, they, for the first time since this began, did not have any new cases in 24 hours. Experts say that the outbreak there is not officially done until there have been 14 consecutive days of no new cases.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, it is getting worse. Italy had to close off all borders after trying less drastic measures that did not work. They put regions that were having massive outbreaks in lock down, however there appeared to be a mass exodus of people out of that region who were likely asymptomatic carriers. This spread it nationwide. Their country has essentially come to a stand still.

Where I live, downtown Raleigh, NC, USA, things are starting to pick up. Several people fro m Duke University who were international are coming back positive. An orthopedist in Charlotte is positive for COVID-19 (the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus first noted in China). I live in a large retail/living space in the warehouse district which is normally brimming with life. Given my job I am still working on site. Today I happen to be at home as I have a virtual conference. I was supposed to have flown to New Orleans yesterday and would have started the conference today, but of course that is not happening.

Across the country and the globe life has changed. As of 2-3 days ago, Gov. Roy Cooper has closed all bars and restaurants for dine-in though take-out and delivery is still available. People are working from home. Venues are closed, cinemas are closed. Grocery stores are limiting hours. I’d heard yesterday that some major retailers are opening up their first hour for high-risk groups to shop alone. Also, as of yesterday, pregnant patients are now considered high risk as they have an increased risk of severe disease. Since I still have a regular paycheck coming in, I am planing on eating out as much as I can. The food I have here I’m saving more for when all non-essential businesses are closed and restaurants are closed all together but hopefully that won’t happen. A lot of businesses may close, and a lot of workers have been let go or displaced temporarily. Luckily businesses like Amazon, warehouses, grocery stores actually need help right now. There is a greatly increased demand for online shopping and grocery store shelves are going empty. Don’t even get me on the toilet paper issue.

At home the amenity spaces are also closed. The lobby is closed and the office staff are no longer on site. We’re still getting mail so there are huge stocks downstairs of packages people have ordered. I’ve also noticed that the floors in my hallway have more debris than normal so I’m wondering if they’re not cleaning the floors like they had been. I’ve also noticed that the grass next to roads is getting COVERED in debris and trash. It is getting really bad, making me think that they are no longer cleaning that up.

Downtown life has drastically changed. The construction projects still appear to be going forward. Old 2-3 story buildings are getting demolished left and right down here. Buildings next door to Berkeley Cafe are now practically gone. Storefronts next to Vita Vite are gone. The cute, old, industrial sites are disappearing. Downtown Raleigh is rapidly losing its charm and is becoming just another group of high-rise buildings. Oh, it just occurred to me…all of these buildings were meant to be retail/residential. Who will be able to open up in the retail spaces?? Will Publix still be able to open up their shop in Smokey Hollow?

Busses are still running. People are out walking their dogs, going for runs, but gyms are closed. My workout space here is closed. The bustling city streets are now quiet. Right now I see a cute dog across from me out on the porch. He seems very interested in what’s going on in the next apartment lol. My cats have no idea anything is different other than I’m home more now. Parking spaces are empty and fewer people are out and about. It’s March. It will get to 80 today (much higher than the average) and I hope to see some people out, taking advantage of the weather.

People have gotten letters in the mail stating that power and water will not be turned off should you be late in paying bills. Creditors are also holding off on filing complaints and charging for not paying. There is talk of the President stopping interest on student loans. I would LOVE that. That would mean that while I’m getting paid, I can keep up my loan payments as I had been doing and start making a dent on my principal balance. There was something posted online about possibly forgiving front-line workers (ie medical professionals) loans, but I have very little faith that will happen.

Mostly there is a lot of fear and uncertainty. Kids are not in schools..will the schools still do end of year testing? Will they close daycares? (I hope not since parents who work need to have their children cared for. If they close daycares, where will the kids go? Either home with their parents, who risk losing their jobs, or to their grandparents where they cannot go as the elderly population is very high risk and children appear to be vectors of infection). What about graduation? What about colleges? What about medical schools and residency? The ACOFP gives an in-person OMT exam, but since the conference was cancelled, what will happen now?

So much is still unknown. Nothing like this has happened on this scale. There was the bubonic plague which was similar, but not as wide spread. Measles too. The most recent was the Swine flu (H1N1) in 2009/10, and before that 1918 Spanish flu. That one was seasonal and came back in the fall with a vengeance. Only time will tell what happens here.

As for what this blog will be? I still intend to keep posting about minimalism. Now more than ever we need to simplify our lives, take stock of what we have, and look within. I will also likely post about my experiences and everyday life. I may post about my own emotions and experience. I have different views and worries since I am a physician. I may also post with how I am coping with my worries and insecurities as it could help others. Journaling could help me to work through some issues but I’m not sure if the world at large would want to know what those are, so please comment below with your thoughts on this.

Stay well. Don’t touch your face, and remember to wash your hands.

The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money

“Saving money isn’t about depriving yourself.  It’s about deciding you love Future You as much as you love Today You”

This book is brought to you by the ladies at The Financial Diet, a site started by two women who readily admitted they were lacking in their knowledge of managing their personal finances and felt others could benefit from what they learn.  Over time they have gathered more contributors and have recently published a book alongside their normal blog posts and YouTube videos.

I follow them on Twitter and they frequently post/link to articles on their site, some that are worthwhile for me, some that aren’t.  What I was interested in was the fact that these are young millennial women.  Most every other book out there is by an “old white guy” with the occasional woman thrown in.  I decided to get the audiobook since I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks on the work commute, as well as the ebook in case I wanted to have a visual reference.

Read on for more!

Audiobook: my favorite part about the book is it is read by the author!  My least favorite part is she attempts to do voices for other contributors to the book, such as male voices.  I would LOVE to hear a book with a man reading male voices, a woman reading female voices…I haven’t found that yet.  “But Lauren” you may ask, “is it a dealbreaker??”  No!  The book also makes several mentions and referrals to PDF files that you can access for their expert tips and any visuals, so you really don’t have to buy the book.  I had purchased the ebook prior to the audiobook so I haven’t downloaded the files.

The information is not repetitive.  While Dave Ramsey’s TMM is a ‘how to’ book, this is more of a ‘why to’ book.  It tells you some of her (Chelsea Fagan’s) background and issues with money when she was younger.

She goes into topics in the book that does help you in the ‘how do I…’ category.  Examples: how to save money by learning to cook like an Italian grandma.  How to pare down your wardrobe.  How to furnish an apartment, and more specifically, a kitchen.  Dave Ramsey’s book does not delve into those types of topics.

Also…what are retirement accounts?  What about investments?  How do I make a budget?  Should I get a side gig?

ebook: given the fact that the audiobook (or at least the Kindle version ebook) includes links to pdf files in the book, it’s not required to have both.  Well, ok, it’s never required to have either, but I think you catch my drift.

One thing that I strongly put in the “plus” category is that this isn’t just the voices of TFD. They bring in experts, ask them questions, and give you their answers.  And guess what? Not all of their answers are the same.  They each approach a problem in a different way, because like each of us, they have different backgrounds and viewpoints.  Dave’s book is very much his own voice.  This book is a little more well-rounded in that regard.

Some things to note:

  1. I think this book is best suited for twenty-somethings or those just getting started.  As a 35 year old woman with a career and have been living on my own since the previous decade, I wish I’d had a book like this back then.
  2. There is some profanity in the book.  Just as a heads up.  I for one am not put off by it, but I also tend to use it in my everyday vernacular…

 

So do I recommend this book…

Yes, ESPECIALLY if you (or someone you know) is a young female and may not have the best grasp on finances.  If you are older and have been out in the world, while not sounding juvenile, parts of this book may not pertain to you.

If you get this, or any other book in my Finance February series, or have suggestions for other resources, please comment below!

Finance February

For the year, I’ve been wanting to focus on certain topics every month.  I have decided that, as you can guess, the focus for February will be finances.  This is a topic that I personally struggle with and need to get a handle on.

Things I’m looking to do are read books and post about them, any services or resources (like blogs, apps, etc), and any other little things that may come up of relevance.  I had already posted about Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover so you can read about that already on the site.  Coming up is another post about a book that I recently finished on Audible and will review the ebook version as well.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog so you can keep up on posts about resources that I have been using and may help you out as well!

The Total Money Makeover

When it comes to money/finances/debts/loans…I cringe.  I know I’m not alone.  It’s not a course I was taught in school.  It’s not something I was taught at home.  I have had to figure it out…poorly.  I have gleaned a thing or two: 1. take out the full possible loan amount while in school.  Everyone does it.  (This was ESPECIALLY true during medical school).  2. Also, you’ll eventually need to buy a house.  That comes with a mortgage.  3. That mortgage will likely take you almost half of your life to pay off, IF you manage to do that at all.  4. Oh, and there will be loads of compound interest on top of that (luckily I WAS taught what compound interest is during a college maths course).  5. Don’t have the money to pay your bill/groceries today?  Write a check.  In a day or two you’ll get paid and have the funds in your account to cover the check*.

Now that I’m trying to get my finances in order, I struggled with what to do, how to do it, where to begin, etc.  Several people I follow on YouTube (including The Minimalists) frequently referred to “The Total Money Makeover” (“TTMM”) by Dave Ramsey.  I got it in audiobook and took some notes as I listened.  I also got the ebook version incase I wanted to read along, as well as the TTMM Workbook.  Here are my thoughts on these possible resources and if they’re worth the time and effort…and money**.

  1. The Total Money Makeover: Audiobook version.  This version appears to be based on an older version of TTMM (see below for more information).  Now, that’s not to say the information is dated.  Not at all!  Even 20 years from now, unless the USA’s economy has totally collapsed, I feel that the information in here will be completely relevant and, better yet, useful.  What a novel idea!  He does on at least a couple of occasions make reference to “if you are a singleton/childless then the following will not pertain to you” (I’m paraphrasing here), which I appreciate.  If you’re curious: yes, most of the book does tend to assume that you are part of a couple and will need to take your spouse’s income and debts into account.  There are good tips as well for those that are like me, single and without children.  He also states at the beginning of the “saving for college” chapter that if you don’t have children, or if they are already in college or beyond, go ahead and skip this section, which I appreciate.  One issue I have is that it is very Christian-based.  This is a problem that I personally have that will not affect everyone.  One statement he makes early on is to openly admit to this bias and to say that the Christians may not like the book because it is not God-centered enough, while the secularists may not like it given how heavy it is on the religious tone.  I fall into the latter category.  The redeeming factor is that he does admit to this, without hesitation, which I love.  He is aware of his bias and how it may affect his readers, which I find to be admirable.  What I do not like, and in fact strongly dislike, is his tone/intonation while he reads the book.  Yes, the author himself, is the narrator.  The tone in his voice is very condescending.  He also repeats the title of the book numerous times, as if he is trying to convince you that you needed to buy this book (never mind that you have already spent money on it but I digress).  Half of the time that I spent listening felt as if I were being scolded by a parent or TV evangelical followed by a sales pitch from a Congressman or used-car salesman.  Dave: I get it.  I have money problems.  That is precisely why I procured this item for myself.  I do not need to be made to feel an idiot or child for my past transgressions.  (Of note, he tends to pick one analogy and run with it (you will hear him say “gazelle-intense” or “gazelle” no less than 42 times!  Yes, I searched the ebook.  I’m honestly not sure if that is because he thought that repeating it would pound it into our subconscious, or if he had no better analogy to use.  The jury is still out on that one).
  2. TTMM ebook:  as a typical ebook it is fine.  There is nothing special about it.  No animations, no embedded videos, no embedded audio clips that you could use.  One thing it does do that the audiobook does not is to expand on some topics.  I believe that the version I have is an updated text.  The same information in here is the same as the audiobook, so really I believe it comes down to your preference of “reading” as it were.  Overall, it is a good text.  I think it is a great starting point.  There are several other books that he has written on a similar topic.  Hit up the personal finance section of your local bookstore and bring an umbrella to protect your head from the potential deluge of books that could fall onto your head from him and several other authors.
  3. TTMM Workbook: it’s a decent workbook.  He has several passages referring to people that have used his program and been successful, just as he did in the two previous sources above.  What’s different about this is that it asks you to sit down with a calculator and brutal honesty.  I will readily admit that I have not worked through the entire book.  Yes, it does have a section for saving for college and as I do not have any children, I will not be completing this section.  My biggest problem is that this book tends to presuppose that the reader is part of a couple.  SEVERAL prompts revolve around “…your spouse…”, which I do not have, limiting its usefulness to me.  Another big problem is when it comes to figuring out how much you make in a month, how set you are if something were to happen…I currently work a job where I do not have steady income.  I do not have the ability nor luxury to know how much I will be able to take home each week.  Had I known just how often these was addressed in the book, I would likely not have bought it.  If you are in a similar situation to me, I would seriously consider if you truly need this Workbook in your life, or if you could save the funds and divert it towards something better.

Final thoughts: skip the workbook.  If you’re rolling in dough, fine, go ahead and get it, along with a trusted accountant/fiduciary.  If not…either the audiobook or ebook is fine.  Eventually I was able to sort of mentally gloss-over the bits where he started preaching and repeating phrases and was able to pull out some valuable information that I will be implementing.

 

* That WAS something I was “taught” via my mom when we had money issues.  I admit that i have had to use this a time or two during my life.

**Why didn’t I just get it from my local library you ask?  Well for one, they didn’t have it.  My entire library system had every copy checked out and there was a waitlist.  Secondly, if it was as good as everyone had lead me to believe, I felt like this book would be a reference I would be able to use during different times in my life.  You can of course borrow it from a friend if you have one that has a copy, or from  your library, but be warned that there may be a wait.

The Christmas Conundrum

I am going to apologize in advance.  This was transcribed from something I had dictated while sitting in a parking lot on 12/24/2017 and have only now just typed it out here.  Still, I hope it can bring some value to you and that you can help answer my conundrum near the end.

 

I just had a conversation with my aunt, telling her that I didn’t get anything for my grandmother this year.  I had asked my aunt what Granny needed and she said that she really didn’t need anything, but that I needed to get her SOMETHING.  “She’s going to want to open something from you”.  Then I told her that if there was something that she needed that I would get it for her.  Granny really doesn’t drive anywhere anymore, she really doesn’t even cook much, her kids bring her lunch and dinner.  She just sits in her chair at home all day watching reruns.  Granny really doesn’t have any needs right now other than to spend time with people.  I told my aunt that instead of getting her something that I would spend time with her and take her out for a nice dinner one day.  My aunt’s response?

“But that’s what it’s about (opening presents)”.

This truly surprised me.  It isn’t often in my life that I am stunned, but this was one of those times.  My aunt is very religious…she avoids certain words and phrases, gets offended at certain things, is a twice-weekly (if not more) church-goer … and yet this woman is telling me that this, opening gifts, is what Christmas is about.

As I sit here in the Starbucks parking lot, I realize that something has gone truly awry.  Even for someone like me who isn’t religious, I realize Christmas isn’t about opening presents.

When I think back to growing up as a small child, that is exactly what it was about.  I would get literal mounds of gifts, sometimes taller than I was.  I was an only child and, for 10 years, an only grandchild on one side of the family, so needless to say I got a lot of stuff.  I didn’t treat a lot of it with respect as most young kids don’t.  As I got older I began to feel weird about Christmas and was recently able to realize that this feeling was actually anxiety.  I didn’t want all-eyes-on-me as we opened gifts; we would take turns and everyone would watch each person open gifts in turn.  I didn’t want all the attention, and I would think ‘oh, did I get something from so-and-so’, the connotation being ‘did they forget about me?  Did they not like me as much as XYZ?’  I also didn’t want someone to feel like I didn’t like them nor love them as much as someone else because I didn’t get them the best or most expensive gift, or that I got them fewer than last year.

None of this is sitting well with me.

A couple of days ago I was on Facebook and saw a post from someone I knew in high school and all of the gifts they had wrapped.  You know…here’s the tree and present pile…with the caption being “the Christmas elf has come to wrap all of these gifts”.  She posted later about ‘for those that are married, how many gifts do you give to somebody, extended family, cousins, etc?’.  The photo showed a pile of gifts that was at least half the height of their Christmas tree.  They were on the floor, on a couch, on a chair…a massive pile of boxes and bags all wrapped in paper and ribbon.  It was enough to fall and crush someone.  I have never seen a stack of gifts so high.  Her post also mentioned something about money, so all of this is, in my opinion, wrong.

Now that I’m older, view things from a more minimalistic perspective, it just doesn’t sit well with me.  This is NOT what the holidays were for.  It was never supposed to be about  this; showing how much you love someone by how much money you spend on them, and how much debt you go into to do it.

My aunt implored me to buy something small, even a lotion.  “But does she need a lotion?”  She says “well I don’t know, I haven’t looked to see if she needs lotion but I know she uses mine when she’s with me”.  (As a note, when I went to her house on Christmas Eve and was in the bathroom, I saw several soaps on the bathroom sink and numerous towels on the shower, so I suspect she didn’t need a lotion after all).  “Well, if she doesn’t need it, I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to buy her something that is going to be meaningless” to which my aunt responded “ok, if that’s what you want to do then it’s fine”.

My question to you is, when you see things in a different way…when you adopt a different lifestyle…how do you communicate to your family that you will no longer be showing your love for them with stuff, but with spending time with them instead, when your family has vastly different views than you?

For those of you reading this, I hope you have a wonderful holiday.  I hope you do not drown in trash from paper, boxes, and bags.

I will see you all in the new year.

Minimal Holidays

It’s that time of year again.  It has somehow creeped/slammed into my life before I quite realized it.  In years past I would be ready.  Gifts bought and wrapped.  Some gifts I might even accumulate during the year and save for the Christmas season.  These past two years have been a little different.  Christmas is still one week away, but hear me out on this one.

I will readily admit that last year I did have at least one gift bought months in advance.  That was a fluke, and I have started to shift my way of thinking about the holiday without meaning to.

Instead of items, I am focusing more on value and experiences.  My 14 year old cousin will still get her gift card since that’s all she really wants.  My other gifts have shifted.  I have somehow become the person in the family to supply the fun at the holidays, and this Thanksgiving game was “Exploding Kittens”.  I assure you that no kittens were harmed in the playing of this game.  Previous holidays centered around “Cards Against Humanity”, (always a crowd-pleaser).  After this year’s game, my cousin said “I’ve been thinking about getting this game for myself”, so I got it for her.  It was less about the physical game (which is a small box with playing cards inside) than about the fun times she can have from playing  it with family and friends.

My father actually got his gift in November 2016, but this present was costly enough to cover Christmas/Birthday/New Year/Easter/Groundhog Day/you name it.  He is a fan of NFL and the Carolina Panthers, yet has never been to a football game, and could not afford to go himself.  I got tickets on the home team side, 50 yard-line, 6 rows back.  That was an experience neither of us will forget (never mind that I am a Green Bay fan – Go Pack Go!).

This year?  He decided to up-and-go-all-“I wanna do something artsy” which has never been his M.O.  Instead of sports, I took him to see a local legend of a play.  A musical, called A Christmas Carol, with the lead role being played by the same man for 43 years running.  It changes every year.  It is funny and incorporates current local and national events into every production.  We had great seats, and I don’t remember hearing him laugh that much in a long time.  I also treated him to dinner from a Thai restaurant, a type of food he has never eaten.

I got more out of taking him to a play than I ever did from buying him a CD or movie, and this is something he’ll be able to remember and talk about for years to come.

The holidays have, in general, now shifted over to the family cooking and eating together.  Experience each other’s company and coming together…THAT is what the holidays are really about.

Resources for Minimalism

This post is going to be the first in an ongoing series shortened to “Resources”.  These are books, movies, YouTube videos, websites, and more that I find may have some relevance to minimalism.

I am learning and, sometimes suffering, in order to bring this information to you!  I have my first Resource ready to post so make sure to follow the blog so you can know my opinion on where you may want to spend your money, or save it.

Step 5: Declutter the mind too!

It’s been awhile!  Sorry.  I have let work and self-indulgence get in the way.

One thing that has helped with me getting more centered (though, let’s be honest here…there’s more work to do) has been meditating.

GASP!  Meditation you say!  What does that have to do with minimalism?

On the most basic level, if you control your thoughts then you control  your life.  Trouble is, you can’t really control your thoughts.  In my experience that’s impossible.  The mind is a creature in and of itself.  A wild beast.  You can’t control it.  You can’t make it do what you want it to do all of the time.  You can, however, learn how to tame it.  You can also learn when to listen and when to let it go (just like objects – see!  There is a parallel).

Minimalism, being a means of living a simpler life, is not easy.  Nor is meditation.  It is simple…sit/stand/lay still, close your eyes (or not), and focus on the moment.  That’s it.  It is not about quieting the mind and thinking absolutely nothing because that is impossible.  The more you do this the easier it is to see these thoughts, acknowledge that they happen, and let them go, all without affecting your mood or perception of the world and yourself in it.

Meditation can help you realize that you have thoughts, constantly, but that is all they are.  Thoughts.  They are not truths.  They are not reflective of who you are.  They are not predictive of how you act.  The thoughts are not YOU.

Right now I’m not battling to figure out the whole answer to “well then, who am I?  What makes me, me?”.  I’m just working to keep things in perspective.

There are different types of meditation (LovingKindness, Mindfulness, Breath Work, Trancendental/TM, etc).  You can choose any number of them to pull from in your arsenal.  I have used mostly mindfulness meditation and have dipped my toes into LovingKindness (also known as Metta) meditation and admit I need to do this type more. If you are religious (especially Christian as that is the religion I have the most experience with), LovingKindness meditation will challenge you to love yourself as much as your neighbor and your enemy, core teachings in the New Testament.  If, like me, you watched/read Eat Pray Love, you’ll recognize it as “sending light and love” to others in the world.  It makes you exercise and strengthen your compassion abilities, also core teachings of Buddhism and the Dali Lama.  When I was having a really hard time dealing with my mother’s death, this particular type was recommended to me by a meditation mentor.

By learning to show love and kindness to yourself, you will be more able to let go of items that hold you back.

Mindfulness can do the same but from another approach.  It brings you sort of into your body, so you can notice things you haven’t before.  It aims at exercising your ability to focus.  You may only be able to sit and have 1 second go by before having a thought.  At that point you silently acknowledge that it happened and let it go before focusing on your breathing.  Each time a thought happens, you go back to focusing on breathing.  This may happen a dozen times or a seemingly infinite number of times, but each time you direct your attention back to where it needs to be: to the present moment.  It can be easy on some days and damn-near impossible on others.  It can feel like a fight, but it is one worth pursuing.

My mindfulness practice was daily and then I let it go, along with other things.  Occasionally I do try to work it into my day.  When I am driving on a long trip I will sit and do a type of meditation where I know that I am driving, that I am seeing, sitting, watching trees, sunbeams break through clouds.  I will try to do this instead of zoning out and it does make the task less monotonous.

Now, even though I have not had a strong meditation practice in several weeks (though I have signed up for an 8 week intensive course and will be diving back into it), I have noticed changes.  I can hear a negative thought: you can’t do that, you’re fat and worthless, etc, but not ruminate.  I see it for what it is now.  A moment of fleeting nothingness without any meaning, holding no sway over me, and let it go.

It can truly be life changing so if it seems remotely interesting, give it a try.  Here are some resources to help, all of which I have used and vouch for.

10% Happier app (free meditations of different types)

10% Happier book (not-so-free but worth the read or listen) and podcast (free), by Dan Harris

Headspace (free mindfulness meditation app)

Cory Muscara: he has a website and I believe a studio in NYC.  It is his 8 week intensive that I have signed up for and am starting now.