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 and 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

people-2562357_1920

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.

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.