Minimalism and Work

Like many people in this new “gig economy,” I have several part time jobs.  I work for a company that provides hearing coverage for attorneys who are unable to attend their hearings—Primarily, this job involves mediating settlements in debt collection cases on behalf of credit card companies.  I also work part time at a law firm that mostly practices family law and business law.  In addition to practicing law, I teach yoga and I write articles for a local political website.  My jobs have helped convince me of the necessity of minimalism; In fact, if everyone was a minimalist, I would probably be out of work!  

Negotiating with defendants who are being sued to collect their debt, I hear their stories every day.  Nobody took out the loan or made the charges on their card assuming that they wouldn’t be able to pay it.  These are good people who lost their job/got sick/lost a loved one and fell behind on their bills.  Far too many Americans are a paycheck or two away from total financial ruin and I see it every day.  Being intentional with our money and spending it only on what is important allows us to provide ourselves with some breathing room—an emergency fund in case of the unimaginable.

My other job involves primarily divorces—I see every day how “stuff” can get in the way of relationships.  Not only is money the #1 cause for divorce, but I see how people who once loved one another will have nasty fights over material things.  Sometimes, the parents lose sight of what’s important and the children suffer in these divorces, as parents use the children as pawns to get back at one another.

As a yoga instructor, I see students who are in desperate need of healing.  The stress of life has left them disconnected from their body—unable to connect to their body or their breath, they experience anxiety and depression.  This mental restlessness manifests as physical restlessness and they turn to yoga for help.  Our modern lives have overwhelmed them.

One of the benefits of this combination of jobs is that my schedule can be fairly flexible.  I can simply decline offers for hearing coverage work if necessary, and I write articles about local politics from my home office, no matter the time of day.  It was not particularly difficult to get approval from all four bosses for 2 weeks off for my upcoming vacation.  This is clearly not the case for most people, as Americans take fewer vacation days than workers in most other developed countries.  While some workers are given 2 weeks paid vacation, very few use it all and even fewer take it all consecutively. One of my bosses did note that 2 weeks “is a long time” but we would “work around it,” subtly “vacation shaming” me despite the fact that I haven’t asked for a day off since I started working for them in July last year.

While the flexibility these jobs allow can be nice, it can also be stressful; not having any set hours means that all hours are my work hours.  My respective bosses do not know my schedule with my other jobs, and so they simply contact me when they need something.  It can be hectic, juggling my schedule with all of these various responsibilities.  It is my responsibility to set boundaries and not to take on more than I can do.  Even I don’t know my schedule most of the time—hearings can be assigned as little as a day or two in advance, the solo firm I work with sometimes will move my schedule around last minute.

This means I have to advocate for myself and set boundaries, since most of my jobs do not have set hours or a set location.  I have to learn to say no when I need to. It is hard to say no when you can put a direct dollar figure on it.  I know exactly how much I would have been paid for those hearings I had to decline when I took the morning off to go to the doctor.

I have to resist the temptation to be instantly available 24/7.  Often, this will be taken advantage of and taken for granted. For example, one morning, I received a text message at 4:30 in the morning from the coordinator of the place I teach yoga about setting the next month’s fitness class schedule.  (Luckily, my phone is set to do not disturb when I am asleep and did not wake me up.)  As a fitness buff, no doubt she simply sent that text when she woke up early in the morning to work out.  Mere hours later, I got a call from a second boss around 7:15am regarding a hearing coverage emergency for that morning (my phone was still on silent, so I called back 15-20 minutes later, when I saw the missed call.)

When I got out of the shower around 7:30am and saw the missed call, voicemail and text, it would be easy to get overwhelmed by all of this.  What helps me not to be overwhelmed is to 1) prioritize and 2) deal with things one at a time.  I called my boss back about the coverage emergency and, after apologizing for calling so early and thanking me for calling them back, they informed me they had already found someone else to deal with the emergency before I had called back.  I had breakfast, headed to the courthouse and texted the other boss back later that day as I was waiting around the courthouse for my hearings.  Everything is not an emergency and everything does not need an immediate response.  Even for those with only one job, everyone has multiple tasks that need to get done.  Take a deep breath, prioritize, and concentrate on one thing at a time.  Most importantly, never be afraid to set boundaries and take care of yourself.  If you don’t, who will?

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Weekly Update: Week 21

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

On Friday night we got free tickets and went to the comedy club.  The comedian was great, and this was the only meal we ate outside the home all week.  We also made a BJ’s run and stocked up–making sure we have plenty of appealing food options at home is essential to making sure we don’t give in to the temptation to order out.

I have to confess, I finally gave in and ordered new shoes.  I noticed that one of my go-to shoes, a pair I purchased in 2013, were looking a little worse for wear, despite regularly cleaning and polishing them.  I was hoping I’d be able to hold out until the year of buying nothing was over to replace them, but they have reached the point of no return. Remember when the Daily Mail recently came after Chelsea Clinton for her “damaged shoes”?!?!?  Mine are way worse, and Chelsea wasn’t even appearing in front of a judge or anything!

Shoe scuff

This is another aspect of my life where minimalism and my corporate aspirations clash. While there is nothing functionally wrong with the shoes, I cannot go to work wearing those shoes.  My minimalist self says they’re well worn-in and comfy and, even though the stitching had come a little loose and there is a very noticeable scuff mark now, it’s not like the soles had started to separate or there was any structural damage to the shoes that would prevent me from wearing them.  The shoes could still fulfill their ultimate purpose of covering and protecting my feet.  However, it would be unprofessional and looked down upon for me to wear the shoes in such a condition to the courthouse.

shoes suck

After recently minimizing quite a few pairs of shoes I no longer wear, I have a fairly minimalist collection of shoes–3 pairs of flip flops (which is nothing, really, as where I live does not have seasons and I pretty much wear them when I’m not at work) 3 pairs of sneakers, 3 pairs of dress/work shoes, a pair of hiking boots and a pair of rain boots. (I know I should, since I don’t really use them anymore, but I just can’t persuade myself to get rid of the rain boots!) After getting rid of the aforementioned damaged pair, I am down to two pairs of dress/work, the newest of which is nearly a year old already.

Due to my wide feet and painful foot problems, it is difficult for me to buy shoes and I avoid it like the plague.  The only place I can reliably find wide width shoes is the online retailer Zappos.  (I swear I’m not getting paid to plug this or anything else!).  I ordered 3 pairs, which may seem excessive until we remember the 2 pairs I have are already pretty old already and shoes wear out much faster when you only have a few to rotate between.  I don’t know if I’ll keep all 3 pairs yet, but the cool thing about being a Zappos rewards member is 1) free 2-day or faster shipping and 2) free return shipping.  You basically bring the shoe store to your house, try them on at your leisure and return the ones you don’t like.  (They accept returns of merchandise in new condition for 365 days.)

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

Well, I had to give in and buy some shoes….

omg shoes

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

Running Total: $2582

Watches

Ever since I can remember, I have been a “watch person.”  Even in elementary school, I wore those plastic Timex kids watches from Walmart.  In middle school, I graduated to a Roxy watch with a lime green, silicone strap.  I had it for a very brief period before I noticed it had disappeared from my bedroom—stolen by either my brother or one of my friends that had been visiting.

In high school, I had a Caravelle by Bulova watch that I wore every day for probably 3-5 years, until the bracelet strap started to discolor.  (Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me at the time to simply replace the strap).  I didn’t wear watches much in college, but got back in the habit during law school.  I now own 2 Fossil watches and a Skagen watch.  I purchased my first Fossil watch, an oversized, stainless steel chronograph watch while in law school. (Chronograph means it has a built-in, mechanical stop watch).  I chose a watch with the chronograph feature, because it would be handy for law school exams, bar preparation and other timed testing situations; not to mention, as a yoga teacher, I can use the stopwatch to ensure my classes are the appropriate length without having to remember what time I started.  Long before I had heard of minimalism, mindfulness, or intentionality, I deeply considered this purchase.  At the time, the $100 watch came with a jaw-dropping 11-year warranty.

As a matter of fact, I dropped the Fossil chronograph watch off for warranty repairs yesterday, prompting this discussion of watches.  After 5 years and 2 battery replacements, the stopwatch feature is having issues resetting and other movement/mechanical issues.  These repairs will only set me back $8.50, and if they can’t fix it, they will replace it under the warranty.  Few brands offer more than a 2-year warranty, and over 5 years is almost unheard of, even for luxury brands.  One exception I am aware of is Skagen, which boasts a lifetime warranty. (Edit: this watch came with a limited lifetime warranty at the time I purchased it; according to the website, they have also lowered their warranty to the standard 2 years.)

The second watch I bought, 2 years later, was a Skagen, in large part due to the lifetime warranty.  Though I already had the Fossil watch, this Skagen watch was lightweight, flashy, and attractive, with crystals in place of the numbers and a white, leather strap.  It is appropriate for more dressy occasions.  A friend once admired this watch, grabbing my wrist to get a good look and saying, “it must be good being a lawyer.”  This speaks to the elegant look, despite the relatively budget-friendly price tag.  This was a stark reminder of my privilege.

My most recent watch purchase was earlier this year, on March 28, 2017.  (Just days before the year of buying nothing started on April 3, 2017).  It had occurred to me that, as I advanced in my career, the large Fossil chronograph watch looked too casual and the Skagen watch with its crystal markers looked too flashy for the most conservative of professional situations.  I chose to buy a second Fossil watch and was extremely disappointed to learn that, as of 2017, the warranty for Fossil watches has been changed to only 2 years.  Their exceptional warranty was what made the brand stand out for me and the reason I initially chose them.  I went through with the purchase in spite of it; a smaller, gold tone watch with roman numeral numbers.  Simple, plain, and professional.  I don’t feel bad about being a minimalist and having 3 watches, because each of them has a distinct look and I wear each of them for different types of occasions.  I wear a watch pretty much every time I leave the house, with few exceptions, and I get a fair amount of use out of all of them.

Watches

My watch collection, minus the large Fossil chronograph that is in for repairs.

Fossil

For comparison to the others, this the Fossil chronograph that is being repaired

One of my constant struggles is balancing my minimalism with the need to fit in in the corporate world.  I came across this article from Corporette (a favorite blog of mine about all things relevant to women in the corporate world.)  This article about watches discusses watches as status symbols and the author ponders the merits of different luxury watch brands, including the Cartier watch she owns personally.  This article made me wonder: do people judge me for my relatively inexpensive watches?  I also thought about something I have previously talked about that I call “the cycle of more.”  When I couldn’t afford one, I desperately wanted a Fossil watch; now that I have Fossil watches, I want a Cartier.  Once I get the “low end” $3,000 Cartier, will I then want the $8,000 one, the $15,000 one, all the way up to the $100,000 one???

The article makes the point that, for someone like me who wears a watch daily, the cost per wear is miniscule, even at those prices, because a luxury watch is an investment piece that should last a lifetime.  Shouldn’t I invest in something like this while I’m still relatively young to get the most out of it?  While all of this may be true, I can’t help but think about the type of vacation I could take for $3,000, or how many massages that would buy, or how that money could be put to better use paying off my student loans (and/or my husband’s secret debt.)  I can’t say this didn’t plant the seed in my head of saving up to purchase a luxury watch like that in the future, though.

At the end of the article, she states that you don’t have to buy a $3,000-$5,000 watch to fit in, adding “if you fall in love with a $500 watch, go for it!”  Though I really love watches and own 3 of them, none of them have been mind-blowingly expensive.  The cost of all 3 of them does not add up $500, let alone $3,000-$5,000!  The small Fossil and the Skagen were each under $100 and the large Fossil was about $110 with tax back in 2012.  I never really thought of my watches as a status symbol.  There was no mention that, in some settings, a $3,000+ watch might be ostentatious.

Many of the comments echoed the thoughts that were going through my head, with multiple comments singing the praises of both Fossil and Skagen.  Several of the comments noted that they wouldn’t feel right spending that type of money on a watch until their student loans were paid off.  In particular, a commenter identifying herself as Banker took the words right out of my mouth when she said her watch is a “Silver tank watch, by Fossil, and it was a gift. The idea of spending $3-5,000 on a watch blows my mind.”  That level of conspicuous consumption, indeed, “blows my mind” as well.  In fact, my entire wedding set (engagement ring AND diamond wedding band) did not cost $3,000.  Most people will not notice the brand of the watch you’re wearing and, to be honest, the type of people who would notice if I wore a Cartier watch are probably not the type of person I would want to impress.  They’re probably not the type that would be impressed by the least expensive models, anyway.

Weekly Update: Week 20

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

I went to another free concert with my husband this week. This week’s concert was free due to the Ticketmaster settlement.  I was one of those lucky people who was part of the settlement and got free ticket voucher codes. A concert I actually really wanted to see finally came up in our area (well, within driving distance to a neighboring city). The myriad restrictions on using the codes had rendered them unusable up until this point so I was really excited to get to use at least one of the codes before their 2020 expiration. We spent way too much money on “premiere parking” and a $6(!!!!) lemonade. It was 80 degrees, even after the sun went down and we had been sitting in the lawn section, uncovered for hours at that point. I was hot and drinks were not allowed in the venue–Trust me, I considered bringing a bottle of water from home. I was glad I didn’t, though, as there were groups of people standing by the entrance, chugging drinks from their bag after security told them they were not allowed inside with them. I consoled myself that at least we didn’t pay for tickets, and I chose a $6 lemonade instead of a $15 cocktail. Despite being a fan of this band since before puberty, I didn’t even look at merch, which I was proud of myself for. I know I would have been too tempted to buy a shirt I would have worn once or twice.

This weekend, we prioritized relationships.  We had an impromptu Netflix-and-chill movie night at home with close friends (another married couple) and on Saturday we went to a friends’ son’s birthday party and caught up with people we haven’t seen for awhile.  We did give a physical gift, but skipped the card (kids hate those anyway…)

On Saturday, I also prioritized health and had a 90 minute massage. When I previously signed up for the membership, they gave me a coupon for $10 off an upgrade for my next massage, with upgrade options of aromatherapy, foot exfoliation, scalp massage or extended time. I chose to extend the time from 60 to 90 minutes.  This normally would have been $30, but with the coupon it was $20. I spent $20 on the additional time, plus a tip for the massage therapist.

I was informed by a mechanic friend when he heard of the recurring issues with the windows in my car that this has to do with the heat causing the rubber around the windows to stick to it, causing the window mechanism to break. This can be resolved by using a silicone spray to keep the rubber lubricated to keep it from sticking. I finally bought some from Amazon, in addition to some new windshield wipers (the heat also causes windshield wipers to wear out faster this time of year.)

Also, we replaced lightbulbs in the living room and a nightlight in the bathroom, which both happened to burn out in the last week. (Mercury is in retrograde, for those who believe in those types of things.)

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

Love 41 came out with limited edition rose gold leather items, including a set of rose gold leather pouches. I wanted them, but they were pricey due to their “limited edition” status and sold out fairly quickly. This made me reconsider the Koch Leather pouches I had previously talked myself out of buying. I managed to talk myself out of buying them again. I use a pouch daily to transport work essentials in my work bag. Using pouches keeps the bags organized and makes it easy to switch between bags. The pouch holds my notary stamp, a few pens, eyeglass wipes, a mini stapler, my bluetooth headset and my headphones. The $10 fabric pouch I got from an Aeropostale store closing sale about a year ago is starting to fray and the zipper is starting to stick. The cheap, plastic-y fake leather handle won’t last long, either. I can hold out on replacing it, though.

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

Running Total: $2582

Minimalism and Mindfulness

As you may know, I am a yoga teacher in addition to being a lawyer.  While I preach mindfulness to my students, I do not always embody the mindfulness and presence I ask my students to practice.  Not even the Dalai Lama himself would claim to be mindful 100% of the time.  That’s why we call it a “practice” – it is not something we can become or a goal we can obtain.  There is no end to it; it is a constant practice.  Some days, it is easier and other days it is harder to be undistracted and mindful.  In our busy modern lives, it is almost impossible to remain mindful all of the time.  The human brain is not even made to function that way.

I have been to a few concerts recently, and it got me thinking about mindfulness and presence.  One of the concerts, an evening concert in a neighboring city, took us longer than anticipated to get to with the rush hour traffic.  I had taken a supplement that induces calm and reduces my anxiety before leaving, not realizing at that point that we would end up an hour late for the concert.  Well into the drive, I mentioned to my husband that I had taken the supplement.  He responded, “I’m not surprised.”  When I asked him why he responded that way, he pointed out that I am much calmer than I would normally be in such a situation, stating accurately that I “have anxiety when we’re going to be on time.”  It’s true: I plan to be a minimum of 5-10 minutes early for everything.  That way if traffic is bad, or I can’t find a place to park, or I have trouble finding the location, I will not be late.  I don’t remember the last time I was late for anything.  Even as the rain started to come down, HARD, I remained calm.

Somehow, without this anxiety, I was able to see the truth as we fought rush hour to get to our destination: we will get there when we get there, and there’s not much I can do at this point to get us there any faster.  We ended up being an hour late to the concert.  People who plan concerts obviously anticipate a large crowd that might take awhile to arrive, park, get through security, find their seats, get concessions and/or merch, etc.  I kid you not: we staked out a spot on the lawn and, as we sat down on our blanket, the crowd went wild as the first band took the stage and began to play.  We didn’t miss a thing.  Somehow, the rain had missed the area and the grass was dry and the weather could not have been more perfect.  As the sun set over the amphitheater and the sky turned gorgeous colors accompanied by the music, I could not have imagined a more perfect evening.

Had I spent the entire drive tense and miserable, anticipating when we would arrive at the concert, that wouldn’t have changed a thing other than me spending that time in a bad mood instead of an okay mood.  Minimalism is about recognizing what serves us and removing everything that doesn’t to better concentrate on what does.  Worrying if we were going to miss anything or if we would find parking or a spot to sit when we got there wouldn’t change a thing; it wouldn’t make parking more abundant or create a space for us to sit.  That anxiety and worry does not serve any purpose and, like anything we don’t find useful, we should let it go.

As the night went on, I sang along with the songs and watched the lead singer dance and jump and generally entertain us, as lead singers tend to do.  My mellow mood gave way to beautiful moments of total clarity and presence.  The slightly prickly feeling of grass under me, the sounds of the music and the crowd cheering, the smell of…well, I’ll let you imagine what it smelled like.  In between these mindful and present moments, I was also on my phone way more than I wanted to be.  I was taking photos and posting them on social media; checking to see if the photos had any more “likes” or comments; and texting the pictures to my parents, who don’t follow my social media postings that closely.

I wasn’t the only one on the phone more than I should have been.  At one point, the lead singer noticed a fan in the front row recording with her phone.  He motioned for her to hand him the phone, which she did, and he began to sing into it for the next two verses, taking the video of himself as if taking a selfie.  I had to point this out to my husband, who missed it because he was on his phone…

Weekly Update: Week 19

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

I ended up getting free tickets for a concert this week.  Friday night my hubby and I had a much-needed date night that cost nothing more than $5 to park at the concert venue. We ate dinner before we left and didn’t even get drinks from the bar!

On Saturday, we spent the day out with friends.  We went to a nearby town to shop and eat in their downtown area.  I found a local metaphysical shop and bought myself a vial of an essential oil blend (unique to the store and mixed by the store owner) and a small amazonite crystal.  (I know, I know, I have so many crystals, but it is pretty, it cost $1.50 for the small stone, which fits in the bowl with my others.)  I nearly bought a new teacup as well, but talked myself out of it long enough that the antique shop had closed when I went back.  We also had a late lunch/early dinner out.  You might consider it a year of buying nothing fail, dear readers, but the stone looks similar to the larimar I’ve been coveting without the hefty price tag.  Cut me some slack?

On Sunday, we spent time with my sister-in-law and had dinner out afterwards, as it had been a long week and we didn’t feel like cooking.  We ate every other meal at home all week besides dinner on Saturday and Sunday.  We even ate at home before going out on Friday night to the concert. I think we did pretty good, though I would rather not have eaten out 2 nights in a row.

A great thing about this experiment is that it has helped me identify my spending triggers. Emotional spending is a thing for me and I’m more likely to spend money when I am feeling strong emotions–retail therapy for strong negative emotions or reward/celebration when feeling strong positive emotions about something.  When I have extra money due to taking on extra work, it burns a hole in my pocket.  It feels like I deserve to spend it.  I’ve been learning how to resist these triggers.  My mood has been pretty low since my husband’s financial infidelity was revealed, and it is evident in my shopping behaviors.  (See how much more than normal I “would have bought” this week and last week!)

This experiment has also shown me the power of minimalism–Being with friends and family this weekend helped my low mood immeasurably.  Just goes to show what is possible when we make time for our highest priorities.  There are many other ways minimalism has improved my life as well, making more time and money for the important things and allowing me to afford unexpected expenses, like the recent car repair, without stressing.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

  1. Empress watch.  Yes, this is from Rue La La.  (I should definitely get around to deleting that app.)  This is a unique watch and somewhat of a statement piece–it definitely makes people take notice.  It doesn’t look anything like my other watches and the brand seems to enjoy a good reputation.  Unlike my other watches, which require batteries, this is powered by the automatic movement of the wearer’s wrist.

New watch

2.  Tahari Black suit.  (Also Rue La La).  $100 is a good price for a decent 2-piece suit.  Black suit

3.  Tahari Navy suit.  The buttons and slits in the front of the skirt add a modern twist and adds interest to the standard navy suit.  I think I could pull this piece off.

Blue jacketBlue skirt

4.  White blouse.  A standard white blouse is a safe bet for office/professional dress.  Can be paired with pencil skirt, pants, or suit for no-brainer outfit selection.

White blouse tie

5.  Gavin DeGraw tank.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan.  His Facebook page recently announced new merch for the new tour and this tank is gorgeous.  It would probably be very flattering on me as well.

Gavin Degraw tank

6.  CD from concert.  Instead, I am going to get a few of his older albums from the local library to listen to.

7.  Ring upgrade.  To be honest, after learning of my husband’s financial infidelity last week, I have not been my best self.  Faced with the reality of the scrimping and saving we will both have to do to pay off his secret debt, my mind turned to payback and I considered some revenge debt.  While he was (unbeknownst to me) racking up significant credit card debt, my husband talked me out of an engagement ring upgrade that would have been less than 1/4 the amount of debt he was in the process of racking up.  30 months interest free financing right now as well, plus they will cover 2 payments!!!!!  Why shouldn’t I get something nice, too? We could (probably) pay it off within 30 months. Maybe a diamond tennis bracelet to go with that ring upgrade as well. Don’t mind if I do.  (I didn’t really.  Unlike him, I couldn’t do something so selfish.)

Idc interest free

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $430 (not including contemplated jewelry purchases)

Running Total: $2852 

Minimalist Yoga Practice

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I am a firm believer that a philosophy like minimalism applies to every aspect of our lives.  From the clothes we wear, to what we eat, to how we decorate, minimalism can influence it all.

Of all things, I find that minimalism has influenced my yoga practice.  A certain amount of “I don’t care what you think” is present in pretty much anyone who would identify as a minimalist.  Nowhere is this more evident in my life than in my yoga practice.  As someone who does not look like the “average yogi,” it can be intimidating to step into a yoga studio, even as the teacher.  It’s hard not to feel judged.  I used to strain and push myself into poses I was not ready for.  I would feel like a failure for not taking the most advanced version of every pose.  I would refuse props and modifications.

As I progressed in my practice, I realized that the most advanced yogis weren’t huffing and puffing or holding their breath, straining to make themselves do what the teacher is doing.  The advanced yogis didn’t take the most advanced version of every pose.  They didn’t judge themselves and force themselves into the pose because they could do it last week.  They are mindful of their body and only do what feels good.  They recognize what feels good and works in their body this week might not work next week, and that’s ok.  They realize there are lots of reasons for this—maybe that pose was later in the sequence last week and they were more warmed up; maybe for whatever reason, they are not mentally or physically 100% today.  The lack of comparison that is so essential to practice minimalism also serves me well in my yoga practice.

I, like so many other people, love the gorgeous, well-curated highlight reel of a famous yogi’s Instagram page.  Perfect bodies contorted into perfect poses with perfect scenery.  I understand why people envy those yogis and want to be able to do the pose they saw on Instagram.  I have very little use for most “advanced” poses.  There are very few out there that do not have a more “basic” pose with nearly identical benefits and less risk of injury.  Keep it simple.

Having been involved in multiple car accidents in the past, there are limits to what I can ask my neck and shoulders to do.  Shoulderstand in particular, but many inversions are not part of my practice.  I used to be embarrassed when a teacher would offer several inversion options and I would stay in “waterfall” pose, simply laying with legs lifted towards the ceiling, or maybe “sleeping tiger,” with both arms and legs lifted.  I wasn’t the only one, but as other yogis around me would effortlessly press up into a headstand or shoulderstand, I would close my eyes and judge myself harshly.

Now, I have no problem modifying if I need a modification (or even if the modification just makes it more comfortable).  I am unashamed to take a break when I need it; stay where I feel comfortable, even if that’s not the most advanced version of the pose; skip a vinyasa if I need to/want to; reject poses altogether if they have the potential to aggravate old injuries.

Keeping things simple is key advice for all aspects of life.  When you break it down, that’s really what minimalism is all about; keeping it simple.  Eliminating the excess to concentrate on the important stuff.  That applies to everything.  Even Yoga.

Weekly Update: Week 18

Last month, I accepted another side job and have additional income.  I thought now that there’s some more breathing room in our budget, it might be a good time to have a budget discussion with my husband.  We pay bills out of our joint account, but maintain separate accounts to pay personal expenses.  My husband has always talked about owning property as a goal.  I am quite happy to continue renting and allowing a landlord to take care of repairs, but have adopted property ownership as a goal because it is a goal my husband has had since we moved in together.  Following a period of unemployment, I have been underemployed until recently.  With our combined incomes now having even more breathing room over and above our necessary bills, I sat down and drew up a budget.  It was at this point that my husband revealed to me that our financial situation is not as I thought.

Despite having an understanding that neither of us would carry a balance on our credit cards, he has violated this and actually owes a significant sum spread over multiple credit cards. With his credit card payments, plus my student loans, we don’t actually have much breathing room at all.  This puts the goal of owning property off for at least 3-5 years, rather than the 1-2 years I had been anticipating. This is why minimalism can be so helpful. Keeping goals in mind, minimalism helps us keep our eyes on the prize, financially and otherwise.  My husband lost sight of his goal of property ownership and got distracted by stuff and this is the devastating result. This puts a huge damper on our upcoming vacation to Los Angeles, as I planned it assuming we had no debt other than my student loans.  In light of this new information about our financial situation, an expensive vacation seems so irresponsible and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to enjoy it now.

It was pretty painful to uncover this financial infidelity, but we are working through it. All of his new purchases lately annoyed me enough when I assumed he was just wasting his paycheck on all of the new things he has bought in recent months.  Knowing now that he has gone into debt for these things, most of which I tried to dissuade him from buying, or didn’t really bother him about in the first place because he assured me he would pay for it himself is painful.  I would suggest that any couples definitely talk about money on a regular basis.  Up until this point, we hadn’t talked much about money.  There was enough in the joint account to pay our bills, and I didn’t really question too much where the rest of it was going as he makes the majority of the money right now.  He is a decade into his tech/finance career and I am just starting out, making entry level salaries at my various legal and non legal jobs, trying to cobble together a living in a tough legal job market.  Learn from my mistakes and talk about money with your partner.  Now.  Seriously.  Don’t wait.

On a lighter note, I made an eBay sale! Haven’t sold anything in awhile, so that felt good. It was only a small thing, but it is no longer cluttering up my closet. I also discovered this week that people sometimes sell “mystery boxes” on eBay, in which sellers include a bunch of random items, usually for $30 or less. This may be a good solution for all those random odds and ends that aren’t valuable enough to sell on their own.

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

Last weekend, we went to a wedding of an acquaintance of my husband.  We gifted the couple a good bottle of bourbon.  (Consumables, ftw!).  We were supposed to celebrate the birthday of my husband’s coworker at a pricey hibachi, Benihana-type restaurant, but I asked him to cancel in light of the financial infidelity he had revealed to me earlier that day.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

This week, I wanted EVERYTHING that was on sale on Rue La La (Somebody PLEASE take my phone and delete the app from it!)

  1. Prada sunglasses.  I have 2 pairs of sunglasses, but my favorite pair is getting a little long in the tooth. (2 pairs may seem like quite a lot, but I have one black and one brown pair, and I wear sunglasses year-round in this climate.)  The other pair I’ve honestly never been crazy about, and I think I might list on eBay.

Prada sunglasses

2. Shorts.  I liked these shorts; particularly, the sizable pockets.  With very few exceptions, women’s pants either come without pockets or with pockets that are so small, they are not really functional.

Rue shorts

3. Blouses.  In particular, a white collared shirt is extremely useful in my profession and many of my blouses will have to be replaced when the year of buying nothing is over, but it can wait.

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $469

Running Total: $2422

The Importance of Defining Priorities

Becoming a minimalist starts by getting really honest about your priorities and values. When we define what our priorities are, we can focus any available resources on those priorities.  For example, if health is a high priority, defining it as such will assist in providing the motivation necessary to allocate extra resources to this priority.  Write them down in an easily accessible place.  When there is extra time, for example, we are much likelier to spend that time getting some exercise or preparing healthful foods than watching television and ordering pizza again if we have defined health as a priority.

We should consult this list of priorities every time we have free time or disposable income.  If relationships are a priority, rather than wasting another weekend away not doing much of anything, perhaps calling a parent or sibling, inviting a friend over or planning a trip to see family members might take precedence.  Let’s not fool ourselves; we have time, we may just have to use our time differently.  Those things we “don’t have time for” we’re usually just not prioritzing.  Instead of saying “I don’t have time for x,” let’s try saying “x isn’t a priority.”  If that doesn’t feel good, change it.  Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists often says, “show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities.”  Often, it’s not that we truly don’t have enough time, it’s that we prioritize the wrong things.

Every time we consider making a purchase, consider whether it contributes to any of the top priorities.  If not, why would we want it?  Do we actually really want it, or do we just think it would impress people if they see us with it?  If we’re honest, we’re often spending money in a futile attempt to impress other people.  When we have free time, we might ask ourselves what we can do that might advance one of those priorities.

Considering the stories I told in my previous entry about the people who made rude comments about possessions of mine, who wouldn’t feel pressured to impress?  I still feel a twinge of shame thinking about those stories.  They were hard to share.  I wonder how many other people notice my ring and think negative things about my ring, my husband or our relationship.  I wonder how many people see me drive around in my nearly 10 -year-old vehicle and think less of me or my abilities as a lawyer.  (Thinking, for example, that because I don’t drive a fancy car, I must not have much money and, therefore must not be very successful or a very good lawyer.)  This line of thought is so toxic.  It is inconceivable to many in our society that one might be able to afford a new car and choose not to in order to focus on other priorities.  Just because I don’t have a newer car, it’s assumed I can’t afford one, which in turn reflects poorly on my perceived “success”. That just comes down to a faulty definition of “success”.  My husband and I get our bills paid, have enriching and memorable experiences together, and generally enjoy the hell out of our lives.  I consider that successful.

We tend to be impressed by ostentatious displays of wealth because we don’t know other people’s financial situation.  But why do we assume that people can afford everything they own – and even if they can, what does it matter?  Perhaps they scrimped and saved for a long time to buy that Rolex–maybe they just put it on the credit card they still haven’t paid off.  Many of those people who seem to have the latest and greatest of everything are often very deeply in debt. Why would we follow that example? What are we trying to prove?

That’s where priorities come in.  Making my car last for as long as it makes financial and practical sense to keep it on the road will allow me to allocate those resources to paying off debt and going on the vacations my husband and I have planned over the next few years without the added burden of a car payment.

When we put our priorities at the forefront, it is harder to get distracted by the rest.  I don’t care if someone thinks I need a newer car.  When I have in mind what I’m saving for and how trying to live up to other people’s expectations could prevent me from reaching my financial and other goals, it’s easy to reject other people’s criticism—even if it is so direct and blunt as the rude people in my stories.  Being overly concerned with what other people think of us is just wasted energy.  At the end of the day, we are the only ones that need to be satisfied with our decisions.  Those people won’t help us make the payments after shaming us into getting “a car that isn’t old.”

I don’t need to “upgrade” my engagement ring so people think I’m more successful.  Owning expensive things was never my measure of success anyway.  I don’t need to buy a newer or more expensive car so people so people think I’m powerful.  There’s no need for me to justify my financial and other priorities to them or anyone other than myself and my husband.  Why do I care what I they think?  If you take one thing away from this blog, dear reader, let it be this: The type of people who would make such comments are not the type of people we really need in our lives.