Let me be clear in the fact that we aren't suffering for cash over here (not that there is much extra at the end of the month); we both have great jobs; but lately I know we both have felt that our spending and overall purchasing has been somewhat wasteful, and so we are trying to be smarter.
I was reading a new blog last night called beingfrugal.net (yes, I found it because I was doing a Google search on feeding a family on a budget and spending less than $75 a week on groceries). I was struck by a post that Lynnae had put up about Minimalism. It really struck a chord with me.
Minimalism Means Less Clutter
Chris and I have always liked to have a lot of open space wherever we are living--be that in our first apartment, the 900 square foot house we rented in Connecticut, or our current 2,700 square foot house. We have tried not to fill up our space just because we have more of it to fill.
That has proven to be a challenge with James--of course he needs toys and such, but pretty much all of his toys fit in a great organized little space that Gini helped me to put together. I am mindful of not buying him a new toy on every outing (although Chris struggles with this a bit more than I do.) I read somewhere that toddlers really only need a few toys to keep them occupied, or else they become overwhelmed. I think that seems to be the case for James. I pull out a basket filled with cars, blocks, trains or books in the morning, and then switch it with another box after his first nap, and then another in the evening. He is pretty much content with that system so far, and I don't need to have a toy room or playroom to store all of his things in.
There is other types of clutter in our home, including my incessant need to buy books--but we are working on it. For some reason, counters free of clutter make me happy and sane
Minimalism Means Less Waste
"If I bring less stuff home, I don’t have as much opportunity to waste," as Lynnae says on her blog. I think that Chris and I used to shop as a form of entertainment. But about a year ago, we had a talk about that and have stopped doing it for the most part. Instead we spend time together in the backyard, or playing with James, or going for a walk. I cull the paper online every week to see what sorts of activities are gong on, like car shows, parades, craft shows, etc., to make fun outings for us to attend that don't cost much money.
We have been buying less groceries and recycling more, and I know that has meant less trash waste. Our garbage pickup is twice a week. We used to have a huge barrel full or garbage, and I mean STUFFED with probably 6 or 8 bags twice a week. Now we maybe have three bags twice a week. We have a lot less food waste, because we are trying to smart about menu planning and shopping, as well as using our pantry the way it is meant to be used--for stockpiling essentials, not, candy (eh hem, Skittles, Starburst, cookies and the like--which has been difficult as of late).
While our garbage has been reduced, our recycling has definitely increased. Recycle pick-up is only twice a month--that is so BACKWARDS, don't you think? If anything, we could use one trash pick up and one recycle pick up a week.
Minimalism Means Learning to be Content
I think that there is a tendency to have more, want more, buy more. I remember my first really great full-time job as a Marketing Associate in a regional theatre. I was so excited to be making $22,000 a year! It seemed like so much more than the $16,000 I had made at a smaller theater the year prior. My boss had said "Now, remember, when you make more money, you spend more money." She was right. Every new job I have had, I should have banked the extra--but do we ever do that? No, we buy the new car, get a nicer apartment, make clothes shopping a habit, eat out more, you name it. I don't regret that I did all of that fun stuff, but how much of it have I really needed?
I like to look at it this way--if I never made another dollar to spend on entertainment and extras, would I still be happy? ABSOLUTELY! I have my husband and my boy, the rest of my family and my close friends, and that is all I need. Would I miss Old Navy and sushi and mindless shopping at Target? Yup. But does that stuff put a smile on my face? Maybe for the moment--but not for the long term.
Minimalism Means Really Loving What I Have
This stuff has been on my mind for a while (can you tell??) Here are a few more things I am thinking about:
- Turning off my TV for a week. We definitely watch too much. I asked Chris last night, after the news, after Idol, and after Jeopardy, did we really see anything that left a lasting impression on us, or enriched us in someway? (Other than David Cook's yet again amazing performance on Idol, the answer was no.) We need to read more books, play more games, take more walks and just BE together more. My fellow Blogger Stephanie is on day 4 of her own TV-less trial (you can read about that here.)
- Make my own bread. I have a bread machine and for a while I was making tons of homemade bread. How hard is it really, when you aren't doing the mixing, kneading or baking? And I know how much Chris loves the smell of homemade bread when he walks in the door after work.
- Take more walks outside, not on the treadmill. When I am on the treadmill, I mindlessly watch the View or some other crap like that. When I am outside and James is in the jogging stroller, we talk (well, talk between huffing and puffing) I point out birds, he counts trees, you get the idea.
- Finish my new book. I begged Chris to change our bedroom lamps to a taller kind that would actually cast light on whatever you were reading. I wanted to read before bed every night. I did it for about a week, and then I relapsed into watching the news in bed before falling asleep. There's nothing like filling your head with the latest meth bust, child shot while walking to school or three-car pile-up right before laying your head on your pillow.
I added a few new blogs in my blogroll, including "No Impact Man," "Crunchy Chicken," and "More Deliberate Every Day." These are blogs being written by individuals who have taken the three R's to a new level, and I am inspired and amazed by how they are incorporating "living deliberately" into their own lifestyles.
And one final note--I said to Chris the other day that I am somewhat amazed at how the term "green" is popping up everywhere. I am totally conscious of big business turning green. It can only have some perceived potential profit impact for them to be doing so--I can't imagine that Exxon Mobil has had a sudden change of heart. It makes me suspicious, like when major cigarette companies started running "smoking is harmful" ad campaigns a few years ago. I also think that recent comments by Al Gore related to this "green washing" effect are right on the money. However--if it helps the environment even a little bit, I am here to support it.
If you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading!