Weekly Update: Week 17

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

This week, I got a surprise bill in the mail I was not expecting.  When I prioritized my health and went to the doctor regarding some lingering pain, they gave me a foot brace. When I say they “gave me a foot brace,” what I really mean is, they asked me my shoe size and, without further discussion, they put the brace on my leg.

When I asked how much it would cost, I was nonchalantly told “your insurance should cover it.”  (To give them the maximum benefit of the doubt, they may have said “your insurance should cover most of it.” I don’t remember which. Either way, they brushed off my question and refused to even ballpark the number.) Naively, I accepted the brace, thinking I might be charged a nominal amount if my insurance didn’t cover it all, maybe $50 or less.  I received a bill in the mail for $155.66. If I’d had any idea it would be even close to that amount, I would not have accepted the brace.

They were technically correct–The insurance company was billed $400, and in fact paid “most of it.”  This same brace can be purchased online for as little as $80.  I should have known better and not simply taken the brace without insisting on knowing the cost, but they refused to tell me.  So, begrudgingly, that is what I spent money on this week.  Learn from my example and do not accept any treatment/test/service/device from a doctor without at least an estimate of the cost.

I finally took my car back to the shop this week.  When I took it in previously, they noticed a leak and put dye in the fluids so they could diagnose where the leaks were coming from. Well, the estimate was over $1,600 this time.  Unfortunately, one of the things that happens with older cars is that seals start to fail and they start to leak.  It doesn’t seem to be a particularly bad leak — I’ve never had noticeably low oil levels before.  If worse comes to worse, these repairs can be done more economically in conjunction with another repair down the line: the parts are actually pretty inexpensive, but the amount of labor that would go into taking all the necessary stuff apart to replace the seals is what makes it expensive.

I submitted photos of my duffel bag to the company and got good news back–it’s covered under the warranty! However, they charge a $50 processing/handling fee for warranty service for luggage. I bought the bag on sale for $49.99 + tax in the first place 6 years ago; however, the bags retail for $130+. This particular model is discontinued, so they will likely repair it or replace it with a “comparable item.” Everything currently on their website is ugly in my opinion and I don’t think I would want any of it.  It’s a shame, really.

I mentioned before that Bar fees for the year are due.  I finally got the nerve to ask my boss if the firm could reimburse me the $265, and he agreed!  That should help out with some of these recent unanticipated expenses.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

  1. Embroidered Denim Jacket.  This jacket was on sale on Rue La La (I REALLY should delete that app.)  Back in March, before this year of buying nothing began, Loft had a sale, which included a classic denim jacket. I thought a denim jacket might be a more sophisticated alternative to a hoodie when the weather is cooler.  It was plain, medium dark wash; nothing exciting.  Even on sale, it was more expensive than this cool, embroidered denim jacket.  I keep telling myself that the plain jacket is a classic piece and the embroidery will eventually make the jacket look dated or too young for me.  The classic, unembellished denim jacket I bought is timeless and will look good for years to come.  Even if it is a little boring comparatively.

Denim jacket embroidered

2. Loft denim shorts.  Several years ago, the last time I was buying denim shorts, I had the hardest time finding some that were not intentionally ripped/stained/etc. and the shorts I currently have might be a little age-inappropriate now as a result. When I thought of the denim jacket I bought from Loft, I decided to look at Loft’s website and see how much the jacket cost now. It is still listed for $30 more than I paid for it back when it was on sale (SCORE!).  The downside was that I saw the sale they were having–50% off.  I really wanted to buy these shorts, but I can wait until the year of buying nothing is over to buy new shorts.

Denim shorts

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $60

Running Total: $1953

Choosing Minimalism

I’ve talked about times I have felt judged by others for my very un-flashy lifestyle. I’ve talked about checking our privilege.  But what I’ve yet to talk about is the times I’ve unfairly judged others.  We’ve all done it.

Most recently, a young legal assistant at the law firm I work for got engaged.  She received a gorgeous ring from her now-fiancé.  It is the typical, American, 1+ carat diamond.  Knowing how much she gets paid and that she’s still in school, I momentarily judged her (and her fiancé) for what I perceived to be a wasteful purchase that almost certainly put them in debt.  I reminded myself: I don’t know their situation.  We all have different priorities in life, financially and otherwise, and it’s unfair for me to judge.  I have come a long way in my minimalism journey, but I wasn’t always able to remind myself not to judge.  In the past, I have judged people for the opposite reason — they didn’t have/do/buy enough.

When I was in yoga teacher training, we did study sessions at the studio owner/teacher trainer’s house.  It was a small house and sparsely furnished.  I remember a bookcase, a kitchen table and chairs and not much else.  We all sat on the floor.  My immediate reaction was confusion: didn’t he make decent money as the studio owner?  Wasn’t his living room currently filled with a group of teacher trainees who all spent thousands of dollars to be there?  Why didn’t he have more stuff?

Minimalism wasn’t the buzzword back then it is now and he described himself as a “non-materialist.”  Training extended through the holiday season as he explained to the class that he doesn’t celebrate the holiday season; rather, he chooses to gift at other, unexpected times.  If he sees something he believes someone in his life would appreciate, he gifts it at that point, not during the obligatory holiday gifting season.  It is then truly a gift and not an obligation.  He requested we not gift him anything material for the holiday.  This all seemed quite pretentious to me at the time, but now I understand where he was coming from.  This person has had so many wonderful experiences in his life that I’m sure his “non-materialist” lifestyle allowed him the freedom to pursue; in addition to having taught yoga, including teacher trainings, he is a scuba diver and skydiver, and probably many other exciting things I do not know about.

During my undergraduate years, I participated in my school’s freshman program.  For incoming freshmen in their first semester, the school offered bundles of classes targeted towards freshmen with particular goals—pre-med, pre-law, education, etc. All of the students were in almost all of the same classes, including a class taught by a upperclassman with the same interests as a mentor.

While most of the students from the pre-law group I was in didn’t end up going to law school, there was one particularly bright student who I was surprised did not. 

At graduation, he was recognized as one of three students to graduate with a perfect 4.0 average.  At the time, when I found out his GPA and the fact that he wasn’t going to law school, I couldn’t believe it.  With just a halfway decent LSAT score, he could probably have his pick—and not have to worry too much about money, either.  “What a waste of hard work!” I thought to myself.

When I look back, I’m sure there were lots of people in his life not just thinking it to themselves.  I’m sure this young man had lots of pressure on him to take the LSAT and go to law school.  Now, I look back and think how brave it was of him to go ahead and do what he wanted with his life, rather than what others expected of him.  He knew himself well enough to know that he did not want a high-stress, corporate job.  Good for him!

He ended up devoting himself to the church.  I see the photos on his Facebook of him and his wife with their baby and he has the same big, bright smile he always had.  That smile, folks, is freedom.  He is not burdened by doing a job he doesn’t love.  He has clearly followed his conscience and his passion.  I hope everyone can find the same freedom in their lives.  There is more than one path in this life, and I wish that everyone has the courage to find the one that brings them the most happiness.

Weekly Update: Week 16

I did a fair amount of decluttering this weekend and ended up donating another 2 bags of clothes and quite a few pairs of shoes.  Now, my suits fit into the main closet and only a few of my sweaters and other seasonal clothing remain in the hall closet.  I also cleaned out the fridge. While I didn’t minimize much from there, I reorganized after removing the contents and cleaning the interior.

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

Consistent with my promise to myself to find more balance in my minimalist journey, we had a fun weekend.  We went out for fondue with friends on Friday and on Sunday, we got free tickets to the comedy club with a group of friends, which was really fun.  We spent money on dinner and drinks out at the comedy club.  I also bought a CD, which the comedian signed, for my collection.  I don’t buy one every time I go, and I haven’t at least the last 2-3 times I’ve gone that I can recall.  Supporting art and artists is something I value.  When we get free tickets to the comedy club and the comedian is particularly funny, I try to buy a CD or DVD from them when I can, as we did not support them through ticket sales.

We also did a BJs trip to stock up on some things.

Making health a priority, I also reordered an expensive supplement I take to reduce pain and inflammation.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

  1.  Larimar tumbled stone.  One of the few crystals/stones I don’t have that I want is larimar.  You probably know as well as I do that I do not need any crystals. While I could squeeze another crystal into the bowl by my bed that filled with small tumbled stones, the $30 or so would be much better spent on…well…almost anything else, to be honest.

Larimar

2. Saddleback bundle.  Saddleback is offering limited edition bundles.  I had unsubscribed from the emails, but someone in the Facebook group posted a screenshot of the email from Saddleback that describes their limited edition bundles they are coming out with later in the week.  I have been looking for an overnight bag/duffel bag to replace my old one and I have had my eye on a notepad holder as well.  This bundle includes all that, plus a luggage tag!!!  It will be really really hard for me not to buy it when it comes out later today.

Saddleback

3.  Marlondo Leather Wallet.  Another person in the Facebook group posted about a huge sale at Marlondo leather.  I have been talking myself out of replacing my fairly new (less than 2 years old) Kate Spade wallet for awhile.  This awesome, high quality leather wallet was deeply discounted.Marlondo wallet

All of these things were really hard to pass up. They feel particularly well thought-out to me. However, I remember the recent, expensive car repairs I had to do.  (I still haven’t brought my car back for them to diagnose the leaks, which will probably result in a fee for the diagnosis, plus potentially more repairs).  I signed up for a massage membership recently as well for pain relief, resulting in an additional $50/month bill; reordered the expensive health supplement; not to mention my hefty monthly student loan bills and upcoming vacation. All of these take precedence over this “stuff” I saw that I wanted. I can’t have everything I want, but I am privileged enough to have everything I need and quite a lot of what I want. It makes it so much easier to say no when I know what I’m saying yes to instead!

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $653

Running Total: $1893

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 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.

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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.

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

Running Total: $1240