Why Are So Many Minimalists Women?

On a recent episode of The Minimalists’ podcast, a listener pointed out that a majority of minimalists seem to be women.  There was one token man in the minimalist meetup group, and most of the members of minimalism online communities seem to be women as well, the listener noted.  The Minimalists, Josh and Ryan, feigned ignorance of the gender disparity, claiming the audiences at their live events seem evenly distributed between the sexes.  I don’t know if I buy it—the online minimalism groups I belong to are comprised almost entirely of women, and the other minimalist bloggers I’m familiar with are overwhelmingly women. I had to ask myself why.

Women are socialized from childhood that they should be in charge of the home, and they should do the shopping.  During the recent visit to my parents’ house, my mom had me go through a container of old dolls and other toys and had me choose a few to give to my niece.  I noticed that, among the accessories that came with the dolls was a broom, a vacuum and a miniature bottle of 409 cleaner—yes, it’s never too early to establish gender roles and brand loyalty!

This socialization does not just affect women—men also view managing the household as a woman’s job.  Once they are old enough that their mother no longer takes care of it, they will have girlfriends and wives to take care of their home.  This is why my husband sometimes “doesn’t realize” the toilet needs cleaning, though he’s the one that lifts the seat and sees the filth most often.  It’s also why he doesn’t seem to notice when the counters need wiping down and doesn’t seem to want to bother to learn where certain items go in our cabinets.  A woman will be judged for not keeping a clean house–a young bachelor with a dirty or poorly decorated apartment is just in need of “a woman’s touch,” while a young woman with an unclean or undecorated living space is just a slob or lazy.

Not only this, but a majority of advertising is aimed at women.  This makes sense, since managing the household also involves managing the household finances—women control 70% of global consumer spending.  Most of these advertisements focus on making women feel less than.  Buy Febreze or your guests will judge you and think your house stinks.  In fact, even if you don’t think your house smells, trust us–your guests will. You’re just “nose blind.” Notice how the man sits and reads the newspaper as the woman cleans the kitchen. Whatever odor is in the house is her responsibility and she should be judged by it. Her guest/friend (another woman) enters and nods approval.

A Mr. Clean commercial features a woman fantasizing about the cartoon spokesman cleaning up.  The woman’s daydream ends, revealing an average looking man in his place, presumably her husband, and as she passionately kisses him, the tagline appears: “You gotta love a man who cleans.”  This promotes the idea that cleaning is not a male responsibility;  It is a female responsibility and men who clean should be rewarded and appreciated.  They are going above and beyond their responsibilities.

It makes sense that women would see more value in eschewing a materialist, capitalist lifestyle.  They feel more relief at giving themselves permission to live with less.  Ignoring these toxic messages is empowering for women in a way it is not for men.

Now that women are in the workplace, they still find themselves responsible for a majority of the household tasks and child-rearing tasks as well, due to old-fashioned attitudes about the division of labor.  They find themselves the manager and the main employee of the home.  The problem with that, as this smart cartoon illustrates, is that managing is a job in itself.  Very few other jobs require the person overseeing the project to also be the person executing it.

This is referred to as the “mental workload” of the household.  My husband does not spend much mental energy remembering the last time the kitchen floor was mopped, how the apartment is overdue to be vacuumed, that we’re running low on bleach, or when the sheets on the bed were last changed.  I, on the other hand, am constantly looking around to see if surfaces need to be dusted, if the floors need cleaning, keeping track of how much toilet cleaner is left, etc.

The answer seemed obvious to me as my husband once again left my teacups on the kitchen table after they’d been washed and dried, claiming to be unsure where they go: women are viewed as the managers of the household.  This includes the organizing, purchasing, and maintenance of the household and its many items.  My husband (and the husbands of many of the minimalist women in the groups) do not see the importance of minimalism, because, quite simply, they are not the ones moving all the knick-knacks to dust the shelves or vacuuming under all the furniture.  In short, their lives are not any easier for clearing the clutter, so they do not perceive the value in the exercise.

How Minimalism Relates to Being Childfree

How can someone with children be a minimalist? How does minimalism apply to kids?

Popular proponents of minimalism, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, are constantly asked these sorts of questions. But, I rarely hear the opposite side of the issue: How has minimalism impacted your decision about whether or not to have children? Should minimalists have fewer children? As a minimalist, should you reproduce at all in this overpopulated world?

BONUS BLOG THIS WEEK!  I’ve touched on being childfree in a previous entry, but I get really deep into my reasoning of how minimalism relates to being childfree, featured on The Rinky DINK Life Blog!  Check it out.

Weekly Update: Week 15

I feel like I’ve been doing a better job prioritizing my health this week (with the exception of the pizza we ordered Thursday night…)  I went to several yoga classes this week and did some walking.  I also lost 3 pounds.  It seems like a little thing, but when I have been gaining and losing the same 5 pounds for 6 months, it’s nice to see a lower number on the scale.

After the last few weekends of not doing much socializing due to the changes we were making around the house, this weekend we entertained friends for the first time.  I decided I was not going to let this become more of a burden than a benefit in my life and didn’t want to spend another weekend not socializing.  We went to to dinner and a show with friends on Saturday night and had friends over on Sunday to swim in the pool and enjoy barbecue.  (Also to show off how the house looked now the project is done, to be honest.)  My friends were overwhelmingly supportive of the transformation.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

Well, I finally bit the bullet and got my car window repaired after driving around for months with the back window taped up.  Luckily, I don’t keep anything valuable in my car because, when I locked my keys in the car recently, the tape was easily removed allowing the window to fall open. That was convenient for allowing us to retrieve my keys, but not the most secure situation.  While taped up windows aren’t a great look, I would’ve been fine keeping them taped for much longer if it weren’t for the security considerations.

The car was also due for an oil change, so I had that done at the same time. It was even more expensive than I was anticipating.  Ouch.  In addition to the planned repairs, they saw some leaking of oil and transmission fluid. They put dye in the fluids, which will allow them to identify the source of the leak when I bring it back next week for possibly even more repairs. Double ouch.

It is moments like these that I am grateful for this experiment–When large, unexpected expenses like this come up and I can afford them, albeit begrudgingly, it is empowering. In fact, a study last year showed nearly 2/3 of Americans don’t have enough savings to be able to afford this exact situation–a $500 car repair.  This year, an updated study showed that number is still well over half.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

In the middle of the night, finding it hard to sleep, random thoughts pop into my brain. One night this week, one of these thoughts was “Is Aeropostale, that store I was obsessed with in high school, still open?”  So I googled and checked out Aeropostale’s website.  Big mistake.

Aeropostale

They are having a huge sale right now, with hundreds of items under $10, plus an additional 40% off.  I was honestly shocked at how low some of the prices were and was extremely tempted to buy a cheap pair of yoga pants and a few tank tops.

I reminded myself about the environmental impact of “fast fashion” and that I should choose quality over quantity.  No doubt, at under $10 per item, this clothing was not made to last.  Plus, I still have more than enough clothing to wear.  As I’ve previously discussed, things like t-shirts and tank tops that would not be appropriate to wear for work have limited utility, as they can’t be worn a majority of the week. Part of the point of this year of buying nothing was to let some of my older things wear out while also not necessarily replacing everything, allowing my clothing collection to whittle itself down to the level I want without having to get rid of so much perfectly good clothing.  After some extensive window shopping, I forced myself to click out of the website.

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $ ??? – who knows how much I would have spent on Aeropostale sale?

Running Total: $1240

Travel & Souvenirs

Since so many people take vacations in this last month or so before school starts back up for kids, I thought this would be a good time to cover travel and souvenirs. Many minimalists will claim they eschew material goods to allow them the financial freedom to travel.  Some minimalists adopted the lifestyle in order to travel–Their entire life fits in their suitcase.

I think we can all agree that the standard souvenirs–snow globes, pens, coffee mugs, t-shirts, shot glasses, etc.–are useless and a little tacky.  We don’t need some trinket with the name of the city on it (or, really, any material item) to remember we went there.

Pens used to be my go-so souvenir.  I had a floating statue of liberty pen from when I went to New York with the school band in high school and a pen from the Spy Museum from when we went to Washington, D.C.  Recently, those got chucked out.  I have far too many high quality pens to keep those cheap plastic ones.

 That doesn’t mean I never get souvenirs and it doesn’t mean you never should, either.  I just get a different kind of souvenir.

Butterfly car

This butterfly that hangs in my car was a souvenir from our trip to Key West.  We visited the Butterfly Conservatory and, as I’ve mentioned before, butterflies are a very important symbol to me.  I saw this butterfly and thought it would look beautiful hanging from my rearview window.  It’s unique and I get lots of compliments on it.  Plus, everytime I get in my car, I think of that wonderful vacation, which was the first one my husband and I ever went on together.

Fluorite

The fluorite obelisk that sits on my desk with some of the other crystals in my collection was actually a souvenir from our trip to Savannah, Georgia last summer.  Before meeting some friends in Hilton Head, South Carolina, my husband and I spent a few days by ourselves in Savannah.  We did a trolley tour around the city and walked around the city for awhile, checking out the local sights.  I stopped in this crystal shop and intended only to look.  This obelisk caught my eye, but I stepped out of the store empty handed as we continued to look around.  I decided to go back and get it after I had taken some time to consider the purchase.  (And this was a good 6 months before I’d ever heard the word “minimalist”!)  I already had quite a few crystals at that point, but decided to get the obelisk because the colors and its quality stood out to me.  I took this photo outside so the interesting swirls of greens and purples would be obvious.  What’s not as obvious from the photo are the flashes and other beautiful features that are hard to capture with a camera.

Manatee jewelry

The manatee necklace in the center is one I have had since I was a child.  The earrings, found by chance in an adorable shop on a vacation to St. Augustine, look like they go with it.  It’s not obvious at all that these were not all part of the same set, purchased at the same time. When I saw them as we were browsing local shops, I knew I had to have them and they ended up being my souvenir from that trip.

So that brings me to our upcoming trip to Los Angeles: Will I purchase any souvenirs? That’s an easy question. As we’ve planned our trip around a convention that will involve many of my favorite comedians, I am planning to add to my autograph collection in lieu of other, more conventional souvenirs.  It will be easy to resist other trinkets with a plan already in place, since adding to my autographs will add much more value for me than any other souvenir I can think of.  That’s not to say I must have a souvenir from every trip I go on: If our trip to L.A. did not involve this convention that features some of my favorite comedians and meet-and-greet opportunities, I would probably not get a souvenir of any kind–certainly not a tacky t-shirt or a mug I’ll use once, then let collect dust.

Weekly Update: Week 14

This week included lots more decluttering, especially the paper clutter.  As a lawyer, my tendency is to hoard paperwork–receipts, old contracts/agreements, etc.  This has come in handy in the past with warranties and things like that; however, I’ve been realizing lately that there are only a handful of documents that one (arguably) needs physical copies of.  Things like passport, driver’s license, Social Security card, birth certificate, marriage license and car title, insurance, and registration.  Even then, it’s advisable to have digital copies of everything in case of fire, theft, or loss.  I was in such a habit of filing everything in the filing cabinet and forgetting about it that it was a little overwhelming to deal with.

I had manuals for every thing I’ve ever bought that came with one–I still had lots of manuals for things I didn’t even own anymore! They all went in the garbage, since owner’s manuals rarely need to be referenced and are widely available online should the need arise. I shredded all the old documents (4 garbage bags worth!) Being backed up to the Google Drive, I do not have to worry about losing or damaging any of these important documents since I have digital copies. The next big project will be going through my husband’s drawer in the filing cabinet and possibly selling the entire filing cabinet.

I used a scanner app on my phone to scan all of the documents I had saved–receipts for valuable items like furniture, electronics, and jewelry; old receipts for car services (I can account for almost every service performed on my car since I purchased it in 2012!); receipts and health documents from doctors visits and health insurance documents; bank account information and statements.  (Yes, I am signed up for paperless statements with all of my banks and credit cards, but my bank still sends me biannual paper statements of my retirement account.)  While this arguably adds to my digital clutter, it is much easier to regularly got through and erase files of documents as I no longer need them than it would be to empty out and shred a pile of old documents.

In addition to scanning receipts for car maintenance, I made a spreadsheet listing all past car maintenance, which I will keep up with from now on. Keeping up with this system will be much easier than the huge initial effort it took this weekend to implement it. I’ve heard it helps resale value of a car if the owner can show the car has been well-maintained.

I had previously looked into the warranty on my Victorinox duffel bag, and didn’t think I could do anything about it, since I didn’t have the original receipt.  Well, lucky enough, I found the original receipt and the tags I kept that state the exact terms of the warranty. It seems that I may be able to get a replacement or, at the very least, very discounted repairs from the company.

I’m becoming very aware of the amount of time decluttering is taking from my other pursuits at the moment.  This is the 2nd weekend I have spent a majority of decluttering, organizing or minimizing in some way.  The big project (which was my husband’s idea, lest we forget) is nearly done now.  I was able to finish my whole paper decluttering in a few days.  I am getting to a place where I am fairly happy with the level of decluttering that’s already happened.  It’s not perfect, but nobody’s house is.  I think sacrificing a few weekends for the amazing improvements we’ve seen in our living area is worth it.  I need to be wary of letting this become more of a burden than a benefit.

Another huge improvement we made this weekend involved emptying a cabinet to fit some things that did not have a home.  One thing my husband and I have quite a lot of is glassware.  While previous donations to the thrift store included lots of glassware, we still had a lot more.  Even after minimizing, our drinkware still took up an entire kitchen cabinet, plus a separate standing cabinet.  I gathered our entire collection of glassware onto the kitchen table and organized a few favorites in the kitchen cabinet.  I asked my husband what he really really wanted to keep.  I convinced him to get rid of an old set of plain glasses I had in college.  It was a set of 18 really plain, boring glasses.  (I don’t know what I was thinking, purchasing a set of 18 glasses to take to college…Other than I worked at a discount store at the time and they were really inexpensive, plus I had an employee discount).  We reduced the excess from the freestanding cabinet, which we can use to store things that were absentmindedly strewn across the top of those cabinets. Everything looks much better and cleaner.  I wish I would have taken “before” pictures. We donated 4 bags of clothing and other miscellaneous items, plus 2 boxes of glassware.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

I went and got a massage with the discount code and the gift card this weekend.  In fact, I signed up for a membership, in which members pay a membership fee of $50 per month, which entitles them to 1 massage or facial per month, plus additional services at a lower, membership rate.  I will probably keep the membership for the next few months.

We did not completely finish the major minimalism project we started last week. Since we were working so hard putting everything all the way back together after our project last week, we ordered Chinese so we could keep working with minimal interruption.  That provided dinner on both Saturday and Sunday night.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

This week was a little hectic, so I didn’t really do much shopping–internet or IRL.  Maybe I’m getting better at resisting the barrage of advertisements we all have to deal with in our modern lives.

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $0

Running Total: $1240

Tomorrow is Overrated

Recently, I have been seeing this commercial for Jose Cuervo tequila.  This commercial really makes me think: if somehow I knew today was my last day, what would I do?  What would matter to me at that point?  

At the beginning of the commercial, a news broadcast is shown, and the anchor encourages people to “hold your loved ones close.”  Then, it shows the bar patrons singing and dancing and enjoying each other’s company as the world literally ends all around them.

Money doesn’t matter at that point.  A man who grabs money off the bar and runs out is swept away in the disaster outside.  What could he have possibly wanted that money for? Perhaps if the world didn’t end, he would be a few dollars richer?  A meteor crushes a truck outside and the roof is blown off the bar where the patrons are singing and dancing.  The house we have and the car we have don’t matter at that point.  All material possessions are destroyed.

How many of us would be like that man who stole the money off the bar?  Would we spend our last day robbing banks, or stealing cars/jewelry/etc., so we could spend our last day surrounded by material wealth?  Would we go on a shopping spree, spending every last cent in our bank accounts?  Of course not, we think.  This seems pointless, facing the inevitable end of the world.  Indeed, this is how many of us spend a majority of our days–working, in pursuit of material wealth.  It also makes me think about the importance of being present.  Finding the beautiful in the mundane, everyday routine.   Finding some sort of joy in our work, no matter what our work is, is essential. If we’re always anticipating the weekend/summer/retirement, etc., we are missing out on what is happening right now. Not to be morbid, but one day we are not going to make it to the next weekend we are so anticipating.  And, as retirement becomes a distant dream for many in the middle class of this country, it’s becoming increasingly likely that this is how we will spend our actual last day.  More and more Americans expect that they will have to work until they die.

Most of us would say we would want to spend our last day with family.  While we say this, how many of us do not live this in our daily lives?  How many of us stay late at work regularly, prioritizing money over family?  Checking work emails after work hours and answering after hours calls and texts has become almost an unspoken expectation in the modern workplace.  How many of us, when we are with family, are on our phones, not giving our loved ones our full attention?  Parents, your kids notice.

Obviously, we can’t literally live everyday like it was our last day, contrary to the popular wisdom.  (Who would ever do laundry?!)  We certainly need to strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the present.  We should think about what it says about our priorities next time we spend an evening on our phones, in the same room as our loved ones, but not actually present.

Weekly Update: Week 13

This week, my husband totally had a breakthrough.  For years, we have been utilizing a large set of industrial shelving as an “entertainment center.”  This is because my husband filled the garage of his old apartment with tools and the like, never considering that one day, he might live somewhere that did not have a garage, or did not have a big enough garage to set up warehouse shelving.  He has resisted getting rid of this eyesore for nearly 5 years, citing the amount of money he paid for them.  Out of the blue, without my prompting, he was finally ready to let go.

File_000 (2)

As you can see, this shelving served not only as an entertainment center, but it also served as storage for more items than can even be pictured.  The blue bins below are just barely visible in the corner.  To replace this storage with a simple t.v. stand, that would mean quite a bit of minimizing.  Everything being stored on or around the shelves would have to go somewhere else or be eliminated altogether–including the blue bins.  My husband, to my surprise, decided he was OK with this.

We minimized quite a lot this weekend–another carload to Goodwill!– and purchased a t.v. stand.  I’m proud to report that this was the motivation necessary for me to get rid of the DVDs.  To be totally honest, I kept a decent selection of yoga/workout DVDs, and 3 of my favorite movies—“Pride and Prejudice,” “Love Actually” (What can I say, I love Keira Knightley?!) and a less well-known movie called “Loser,” which I love despite the fact it is painfully early 2000s.

Tv stand

I know as a minimalist, I should ideally be trying to remove furniture instead of buying new furniture.  By showing the before and after pictures, I hope the value this purchase adds to my life is obvious.  I will actually have the room in the living room for exercise and stuff, which will help me achieve my health goals and prevent me from making excuses why I can’t exercise as much as I want to.

I took advantage of the momentum created by this spur-of-the-moment minimalism project my husband decided to undertake by minimizing more from my desk.  I previously had a wooden organizer that sat on top of my desk that was filled to the brim with pens, pencils, scissors, notepads, etc.  I didn’t think that would be something I would ever be able to get rid of.  However, I got rid of quite a few of the pens and pencils and put everything else in the drawer of my desk, which had room from the last time I went through the desk.

I’ve resolved to keep only my higher quality pens plus 2 or 3 cheap plastic ones for loaning out at work.  (I realized after considering how many pens I had that were not cheap plastic pens, my pens probably should’ve been included as part of my entry on my collections…)

Pen collection

From top of image to bottom:

Wood Attorney at Law pen, Amazon (The least expensive one and the only one I personally purchased)

Cross Black Laquer Pen (Acquired during law school for free using research points from LexisNexis)

Cross Pen and Mechanical Pencil set (Christmas gift from Mom and Dad when I was a teenager as it was similar to a pen my mom received from her Dad)

Montblanc Meisterstück Platinum Line Hommage à W.A. Mozart Ballpoint Pen (Inherited from my husband’s late Uncle)

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

This week, I was looking online at Ulta for some toiletry items I wanted to buy (in particular, dry shampoo and some highlighting powder) and I noticed myself falling into familiar patterns: “Oh, there’s a 20% off coupon.  Darn, the stuff I want is not part of it.” “Add $20 for free shipping?  OK, what else do I want to buy to get the free shipping?  The shipping would be $10 itself, so it’s only a little extra.”  I had originally wanted to buy online because buying online would allow me to get Plenti points for the purchase and would save me the trip to the store.  At that point, however, I decided to click out of the link, go to the actual store (which is fairly close to my office), get exactly what I want and avoid the shipping costs that way, so I did.

This week was also a good friend’s birthday.  We went to the party last weekend, but that didn’t make it into last week’s weekly update.  The visit with my parents had been so eventful, I hadn’t discussed all of it in the previous week’s update and fell behind a week. While we had resolved to gift experiences in lieu of physical gifts, we happened to know for a fact specifically what our friend wanted.  It had come up in conversation recently that he did not own a flask and wanted one, so we decided to get him one.  Most importantly, we spent our time and created memories with them, barbecuing and playing board games.

This weekend was really low key for us, as I have had a cold all week.  My husband and I went out for pho last night, which I really enjoyed.  The warm soup and tea was really what my body wanted to help kick the last of this cold, which he may unfortunately now be coming down with.

Between the new tv stand, a physical birthday gift for our friend, the crystal pedestal, and the shirt weeks ago that, while justifiable, wasn’t strictly necessary, I am beginning to feel like I have been too lenient with myself and this challenge in recent weeks.  (I’m sure many of you would agree, even if you’re too nice to ever say anything.)  I am recommitting to being stricter about not purchasing anything.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

1.   Stock & Barrel Cord Keeper.  These are different (and, in my opinion, better) earbud wraps than the ones I wanted a few months ago.  This demonstrates that, at the very least, shopping around and postponing purchases can help you make better decisions about what to purchase.  Of course, we could go back and forth and waffle on a purchase, always wondering if there’s something better that will come along.  As with everything, this is about balance.  Do the research and make an informed decision, but once you decide, be confident in your decision.  At this point, more than once I have been tempted to get a cord keeper for the earbuds I keep in my tote bag.  I could live without it, but it might make my life a little easier.  I think I’ll almost certainly get one when the year of buying nothing is up.

Headphone wrap 2.png

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $15

Running Total: $1240

Those Things We Just Can’t Let Go of

Let’s talk about those things we just can’t let go of.  The things we hold onto despite knowing we can and should get rid of them usually fall into one of a few categories.

“But someone special gave that to me!”

We all have those things that were gifted to us by someone special that no longer serve a purpose.  Nobody is suggesting we should get rid of precious heirlooms, but if items are taking up room in our homes without any useful purpose, we should consider why we are clinging so tightly to those particular objects.  Our memories are in us, not in our things.  We won’t forget grandpa if we let go of his old fishing pole that hasn’t seen any use in years.  There are antique shops, thrift stores and consignment shops that would more than likely be happy to take some of those things off your hands, if there is nobody else you can pass them on to. Perhaps we can find a use for an heirloom object in a new or different way that does serve our needs.

More likely to cause angst are those holiday and birthday gifts that accumulate year after year.  Even though you think she will, Aunt Mildred won’t notice that ugly sweater from Christmas a few years ago is no longer in the closet.  If, however, she happens to, just remember: the people closest to us want us to be happy.  If we explain that the item we received no longer serves us and we passed it on to someone who had more use for it, they should be happy for us because we did something that added to our happiness.  It would be silly to be offended over such a thing.

“But that’s for a special occasion!”

Do you, like me, have things you only use on a special occasion?  What are we waiting for?!?!  I’ve recently started using the crystal water goblets we were gifted for our wedding on a somewhat more regular basis.  There’s no reason to never use them!  Use them or pass them on to someone who will!

“But that was expensive!”

Sometimes, our judgment is clouded by how much money something cost.  It seems wasteful that this item that cost so much when it was purchased is useless!  When my husband was single, he overpaid for the latest, large, flat-screen television.  About 2 years ago, it stopped working and we found a very reasonably-priced second hand replacement.  My husband wanted to attempt to repair the television, which I whole-heartedly supported and he made a few unsuccessful attempts.  Remembering the astronomical amount he paid for it, he still could not let it go.  That broken television stayed in our house for nearly a year after that, until he could finally let go.

Part of the reason I have found it so hard to get rid of my DVDs is because of the financial investment that was made, not only in the DVDs themselves, but the DVD holders I got from the Container Store recently to store them.  Estimating how much I spent on all that stuff only now to just get rid of it really upsets me.

If these things are still truly valuable, and not simply junk that was once expensive, we should try to recoup some of the money and sell them.  I have sold quite a few things on eBay in recent months and it’s really been a benefit financially—not to mention getting rid of some clutter at the same time!

“But my ideal self would use that!”

Many people have things that we aspire to use.  Some of us own exercise equipment we rarely, if ever, use.  Maybe you got in on the “juicing” trend and did it for a month but haven’t used that juicer since.  Yes, it was expensive, and it totally seemed like something that would be used every day, but the reality is it isn’t being used and isn’t adding value.  Don’t let it take up room anymore.

I own quite a bit of makeup, but rarely wear much.  I have definitely pared it down, but could stand to get rid of some more.  I also have lots of hair clips and stuff I hardly ever wear that should go.  My ideal self would wear makeup daily and look gorgeous with a cute, but low maintenance clipped-back hairstyle.  That’s not the reality.  My hair and face are usually just wash, moisturize, and go!  I don’t need the fancy hairclips and excessive amounts of makeup.

“But I’ve had that for a long time!”

This is not to say I’m perfect at this minimalism thing, because I’m not.  I kept toys my grandma knit for me for a very long time, despite having no use for them—I’m too old for toys and won’t be having any children to pass them on to.  I don’t need to keep everything my grandmother ever knit for me to love her and keep her in my heart.  I didn’t keep the toys, but I have kept a tea pot cover my grandma knit me, which I actually get some use out of.

For the longest time I couldn’t get rid of a small “tooth pillow” I sewed in kindergarten.  This “tooth pillow” was two cheap pieces of felt sewn together that had a pocket on the front shaped like a tooth that went under my regular pillow (or next to it, for easy tooth fairy access) when I lost a tooth as a child.  The tooth would be wrapped in a tissue and go in the pocket, to be replaced by money.  I have absolutely no use for it and haven’t in years.  I finally threw it away recently.

The old, smelly teddy bear from childhood that sits in a box in your attic.  The baby blanket and clothes from the last baby when it’s certain there won’t be another.  My old tooth pillow.  It’s obvious these things are just taking up space for no reason, yet we still can’t get rid of them.  We’ve endowed them with meaning they do not actually have.  It might make it easier to get rid of sentimental items if you can pass it on to someone you know will get use out of it or sell it to use the money for something you will get use out of–perhaps a memorable experience.

Weekly Update: Week 12

I realized this week that, other than the large fake bouquet that used to sit near the front door (and the derby hat I was reminded of when friends came over to watch the Kentucky Derby), I can’t think of too many specific items out of the approximately 6 carloads of items I have donated in the last 4-6 months.  I don’t really miss any of it, much to my surprise.  (I’ll be honest, I thought I’d have a few moments of “I wish I would have kept that.”)  To paraphrase something The Minimalists often say, “Simple isn’t easy.”

Last weekend when I visited my parents, part of that visit included visiting with close family friends from England.  Both my mom’s best friend’s daughter and the daughter’s best friend are around my age.  The daughter is married and her best friend is recently engaged.  Both are young professional women, like me.  I hesitate to mention it, but curiosity got the best of me.  I took particular note of their rings and (based on this totally unscientific, anecdotal evidence) noticed that the statistics are true–Americans on average have larger diamonds than people from other countries. Their rings were lovely: both had a similar size to mine, maybe even the slightest bit larger than my 1/2 carat, but certainly not the flashy, austentatious 1+ carat that has become almost expected in American middle class circles, especially for young professional women like us.  Americans tend to forget that there are 3 other “C’s.”  I enjoyed the elegant, understated look.

I also finally decided to use the credit card rewards points I have accumulated towards a Spa Week gift card, redeemable at the massage place near me which recently emailed me a 15% off coupon.  Double-win.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

I used the Groupon and got my hair cut this week.  After a few hearings in the morning, I had an afternoon off and went out to lunch (a salad at Panera Bread) and walked around the shops in the area near where my hair appointment was going to be.  I have drastically cut down on my shopping-as-entertainment excursions, and I mostly walked down the street, but occasionally went into an air conditioned shop to cool down.  So, besides lunch out, I did spend money to give the stylist a tip.

OK, while it’s technically against the rules of my year of buying nothing, I purchased a stand/pedestal for the crystal sphere my Mom gifted me last week.  Normally, I wouldn’t make such a purchase, but because the crystal is perfectly round, my only other options would be to 1) not accept it from my mom; 2) sell it or otherwise pass it on after accepting it; or 3) put it in a drawer or other container somewhere hidden where it wouldn’t be able to roll around like it would displayed on my desk without a display stand.  To put this gift, which I enjoy, to its highest and best use (a very minimalist thing to do, if I do say so myself) a pedestal is necessary and unavoidable.  It was around $10, including shipping, so not a budget-breaker by any means.

Crystal sphere stand

It arrived and it looks great!  (Sorry not sorry!)

Handcarved stand.jpeg

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

Nothing, mostly because I kind of cheated and bought the crystal pedestal.  Oops.

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $0

Running Total: $1225

Take Your Stinking Hands Off My DVDs, You Damn, Dirty, Minimalist

Each of us has a handful of things we have a hard time letting go of.  For me, one of them is my DVD collection. 

Not even my autographed ones–just the regular ones!  I had no problem letting go of my CD collection, once I made sure they were all downloaded on my computer. (After the corruption of my entire music library recently, I wish I hadn’t).  I got rid of quite a few of the books I own as well.  My DVD collection, however, has been presenting a challenge for me.  Now that we can stream nearly unlimited content at a moment’s notice, why do we need to re-watch movies?  No matter how much we love it, there’s too much content out there to watch the same thing twice, right?

When there are things we are having trouble getting rid of, we need to ask ourselves why.  What does it represent to me?  Why have I given it so much meaning?  For example, a crystal paperweight with the scales of justice I kept on my desk for the longest time, despite some chips in it, was hard for me to decide to get rid of.  Why?  I purchased it from a discount store, deeply discounted because of the chips that were already in it.  I look back and think, why did I want it anyway?  I thought about it and, despite the chips, it represented something to me.  I bought it while I was in law school, young and optimistic about my future and my career.  I am still young, but not always as optimistic about my future or my career.  It’s been a rough start.  So, I let it go.

I realized that many of the movies I have on DVD are available to stream on one or more streaming services.  Why is it so hard for me, then, to get rid of them?  Part of the reason is the fact that this collection I’ve amassed, while not huge by any standards, certainly cost me a lot of money over the years.  Somewhere between $5-$20 per DVD, plus the cost of the DVD organizers we purchased last year to hold them.  I know this is just the sunk cost fallacy.  Those DVDs served me well when I bought them, watched them and enjoyed them.  That was when streaming wasn’t widely available, live TV (maybe with a recording service) was the only option and re-watching favorite movies didn’t seem so absurd.  I was a poor college student that didn’t bother paying for cable, so DVDs were my main source of entertainment.

Furthermore, I picture growing old, watching and enjoying old movies I love but haven’t seen in decades.  It seems romantic and nostalgic.  Intellectually, I know this is ridiculous.  I tell myself that the DVDs no longer serve me and the whatever costs I have sunk into the collection were already sunk when I purchased it.  (Unfortunately, old DVDs are not the easiest items to re-sell.  I’ve tried.)  Now that video streaming is widely available and fairly affordable, there will never again be a shortage of new content.  Will I really be watching those old movies, like my grandparents did with those John Wayne movies?  I doubt it.  Something stops me every time I try to get rid of them.  I write many of the posts in advance and, believe it or not, a few days after writing this The Minimalists posted an article about getting rid of your DVD collection.  I will have to contemplate and work on this.  Maybe soon one of my updates will triumphantly announce that I have finally minimized my DVD collection.