Checking My Privilege

A constant criticism of Minimalism is that it is a philosophy that is only for the privileged and is anti-poor. This is a criticism The Minimalists, Josh and Ryan, respond to regularly. As someone who has volunteered in Legal Aid’s intake department and the Guardian ad Litem program in my short legal career, I have immense sympathy for those of lower socioeconomic status and have used my position of relative privilege for their benefit.  It truly hurts for people to suggest I identify with a group that doesn’t.

I’m willing to accept the constructive criticism and admit that there are aspects that may seem quite privileged and many of the practitioners of minimalism tend to be quite privileged people. Indeed, I admit that I am a relatively privileged person.  All the discussion by minimalists of cars and vacations might make it seem like minimalism doesn’t have any application to the lives of lower-income people. With many minimalist commentators (and minimalism’s adherents) maintaining such a focus on the decluttering process, those that don’t have much in the first place might tune out the larger message. I explained that most of the things I got rid of during the decluttering process were not things I purchased in the first place, due in large part to my mom’s job working closely with people in their homes who give her things they no longer want. Most of the things I got rid of that I purchased for myself were old enough I felt like I “got my money’s worth.” It would have been much harder for me to get rid of so much had I actually paid my hard-earned money to purchase all of it. As it is, it was hard not to mentally tally up the dollar figures as I made trip after trip to the thrift store with a car full of items, many of which I had paid for myself, some of which I had not.

That’s not to say I agree with everything anyone who identifies as a minimalist says. The Becoming Minimalist Facebook page posted the following article. The article, about overcoming embarrassment about old cars/small houses, etc. was very similar in tone to my previous article that discussed how avoiding the pressures from others was an important part of the minimalist journey for me. The comment section of the Becoming Minimalist article revealed some disgusting, unchecked privilege that made me uncomfortable.


Many of the commenters felt the need to point out that they were able to afford better than what they had. This misses the point because they are still in the toxic mindset of competing with others—only now they are competing to see who has the least stuff/oldest car/oldest clothes/etc. It just changes who they look down their nose at and why. One of the reasons I find minimalism so freeing is that it releases us from the expectations of others. I don’t have to worry about the boy who said my car was too old, or those who said my ring was too small. My car is good enough for me. My ring is good enough for me. Their opinions don’t matter. It is my life and, at the end of the day, I am the only one (besides arguably my husband) who must live with and approve of my financial and other life decisions.

It also buys into the cultural narrative that there is some virtue inherent in being “able to afford” expensive things. These commenters feel the need to draw a distinction between themselves, who obviously has an older car because they are way more enlightened than everyone else and the person who has an older car because they *gasp* have no job/bad credit/can’t afford a car payment right now/etc., lest anyone think they are the latter.
Having lots of money is not a virtue and not having much money is not a moral failing. Many people, especially in America, believe differently, as evidenced by the many Trump supporters that state in interviews some permutation of the following: “He’s worth a billion dollars. He must be pretty smart.” Regardless of my personal political views, I don’t believe there is any correlation between a person’s net worth and their intelligence or morality. If you don’t believe me, consider the example of such miserable, morally repugnant people as Mother Teresa and Gandhi. (Obvious sarcasm here).

That doesn’t mean rich people are inherently evil, either.  Consider people like Bill and Melinda Gates, who used their wealth and fame to create a charity that, among other things, tackles global health issues like malaria and HIV. It’s not their wealth that makes Bill and Melinda Gates morally admirable people, it’s what they choose to do with it. On the other hand, living some sort of extreme minimalist lifestyle, depriving myself and my family for the sake of deprivation does not make me happier or morally superior, either. But if my minimalist lifestyle allows me to donate money to worthy causes, take a lower paying public interest job, or volunteer time to those less fortunate, that’s what counts.

I don’t have to get a new car (and a new car payment) every 2 years because I don’t care if you think my car is old or whether you think I can’t afford a newer one. Having a newer car doesn’t make me a happier or morally superior person. The main benefit of minimalism is realizing there’s no correlation one way or the other. You will cease to be impressed by the things people have and will be more impressed by the things people do.

Weekly Update: Week 7

It feels really great to truly align my actions with my values and priorities.  This week was actually a great week for that.

I also made another eBay sale–YES!!!!!!!!!!


This week, I prioritized health and went to the doctor about a lingering problem.  I have also decided to begin seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis, due to a misalignment I have not properly dealt with.

We also went out during the week, which is totally unusual for us. Wednesday night, we went to a pub and listened to some live music. Kristopher James, a singer we had previously heard and I really enjoyed was playing at a local pub, so we decided to go and have a few drinks while listening to the music.  Another singer, Weston Howard, also blew my mind.  In addition to drinks and cover charge, both local musicians playing offered digital versions of their albums for download on their websites on a donation basis.  I donated $5 for each singers’ 4-track albums ($10 total).  While I spent money, I did not accumulate anything physical, and felt good about using my money to support live entertainment.  Please check their websites out and do the same.  I promise they’re awesome!

Thursday night, we got free tickets to the comedy club.  Dinner and drinks out at the club.  Because we went out during the week, so at the weekend, we didn’t really go out or spend money.


1.  Lilly Pulitzer Notebook Folio.  Once again, I was bored and checked the Rue La La app (I swear I’ll delete it one day) and they were having a Lilly Pulitzer sale.  This notebook folio holds mini notebooks and agenda planners.

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2.  Lilly Pulitzer Golf Umbrella.  This umbrella has a beautiful pattern and, at $25, it’s a really good price.  I already have multiple umbrellas, so I’m not sure why this was tempting at all.

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Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $46

Running Total: $670

Bow Wow Challenge

This week, the Bow Wow Challenge took over the internet.  Rapper Bow Wow posted a picture on Instagram of private plane flanked by Mercedes cars with the caption “Travel Day,” suggesting he was traveling via private plane.  Soon thereafter, a picture of the rapper on a commercial flight made the rounds, pointing out the hypocrisy of his social media posts.  This event led to the #bowwowchallenge, where people post on social media one photo that looks impressive, then another showing the entire, less-than-impressive story.

It’s a prime example of pop culture imitating real life.  Who hasn’t posted a strategically-cropped, overly-filtered photo that makes the situation look better than it is?  I know I have.  At the very least, most of us choose to omit posting about the negative parts in our lives.  Our social media becomes a meticulously curated “highlight reel.”

It’s been shown that social media use is positively correlated with depression.  It’s not clear whether social media use causes depression or whether depressed people tend to use social media more, but the correlation makes sense.  I have experienced the phenomenon of social media depression–Scrolling through my feed, it seems like all of my friends are getting promoted/getting a new car/going on vacation/getting married/having a baby/achieving other major life milestones.  I’ve also experienced using social media more when feeling negative emotions.

Especially when there’s nothing particularly good going on in our own lives, it’s hard not to feel like we’re getting left behind.  One thing someone told me that really stuck with me is that social media can breed unhappiness because we are comparing our “behind-the-scenes” to everyone else’s “highlight reel.”  It’s hard to remember as we scroll through our social media feeds and see the new cars/gourmet dinners/five-star vacations/elaborate weddings/etc., but it is worth it to try. This is why it is so important to be careful about our social media use.  It’s certainly something I am trying be more mindful of.

Weekly Update: Week 6


This week was Mother’s Day.   You’ll remember from last week’s update that Groupon had a 20% off sale and I purchased myself a haircut.  I got my mom a manicure-pedicure at the same time to treat her for Mother’s Day.

We went out for sushi with a friend on Friday night and Saturday night, we ordered Chinese food and watched Netflix after cleaning and decluttering.  Typical boring married people stuff.  (I told you last month running around every weekend was very unusual for us…)

Unfortunately, nothing sold on eBay this week, but after such a hot streak the last few weeks, that’s to be expected.


1. Whipping Post Vintage Tote.  I was very tempted when I found this on eBay.  Even though it’s duplicative of my Love 41 Simple Tote (even a handbag addict like myself can admit that I don’t really need more than one large, brown leather tote) I still might have bought it if I wasn’t on my year of buying nothing, telling myself I’d sell the other, then not.  There are pros and cons to each, as demonstrated by this video where these friends compare their bags.  The leather of the Love41 develops a beautiful patina, but the Whipping Post has an interior pocket for keys and/or phone, plus a flat, reinforced bottom to so it can stand easier on its own–features I have come to covet after using my pocketless, soft-bottomed Simple Tote for awhile now.  I use small clutches/wristlets/etc. to keep stuff organized in my tote, so the interior pocket really isn’t that important.


2. Skagen clutch/wristlet.  I almost bought this bag before starting the year of buying nothing when I saw it on sale at Macy’s for $100.  Finding it even more discounted at Nordstrom Rack made this very hard to resist!  I have no shame admitting that, contrary to Cosmo’s advice, I still use (and love!) wristlets.  I generally keep a Lucky Brand wristlet I bought several years ago in my purse which holds the essentials–wallet, phone, keys.  If I have to stop somewhere on the way home or want to go for dinner or drinks after work and don’t want to carry the whole tote, I can just carry the clutch.  However, the area where the wrist strap connects to bag is starting to wear and come undone, but is in otherwise immaculate condition.  I’ve been considering buying this Skagen wristlet to replace it, but have convinced myself to look into getting the Lucky Brand wristlet repaired before replacing it.

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Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $230

Running Total: $624

Why Minimalism?

Lots of people don’t understand how having less could make them happier. 

They can’t comprehend how denying themselves that awesome new thing they want could actually increase their happiness over the long term.  We’ve talked quite a bit about the “what” of minimalism–it occurred to me I haven’t mentioned much about the “why.”  Let’s talk about how minimalism has impacted my life so far and why it is beneficial.

Less cleaning

Whether it’s the occasional dusting or more detailed upkeep like washing, polishing or conditioning, each item we own requires some level of cleaning and maintenance.  Less stuff means less stuff to clean and less time spent cleaning.  More time to focus on what’s important!

Room for more

When the closet is so crammed with stuff, it’s easy to forget about that amazing dress that somehow got shoved to the back where it’s not visible and so never gets worn.  When the excess gets cleared out, what remains are the things that bring joy and add value.  You are surrounded by all of your favorite things.

More time

In addition to the extra time from less cleaning, spending less time organizing and looking for things is also a pleasant side effect of minimalism.  Less clothes means less time choosing an outfit, especially if you choose clothes that mostly go together.  Perhaps less stuff can fit in a smaller space with a lower rent that might permit working less hours to get the bills paid or allow that extra money to be used for something pleasurable like a vacation.

More money

Being very selective about what money should be spent on can result in lots of extra money.  Not necessarily JUST from buying less, either.  That expensive briefcase might last 20+ years, whereas the cheap one might only last a few years before it starts falling apart (and I’m not just saying that because I recently invested in a fairly expensive briefcase).

Not to say that expensive=high quality.  I saw a nice looking briefcase selling for $700, but when I read the reviews, more than one reported that, the first time they used it, the hardware fell off.  It’s important to do the research.  The place I bought my briefcase from is known for quality.  They stand behind their products, offering a lifetime warranty and I paid nowhere near $700.  Investing in quality when possible can pay dividends.

More of what you want

One of the greatest things about my year of buying nothing experiment so far is that, because of my weekly updates, I am way more aware of where my money is being spent.  Because I haven’t been spending my money on tangible, non-consumable things, more money is available for all the experiences I’ve had this month like the whiskey tasting we attended, transportation to the weddings we went to last month, the tea room I went to with my friend, etc.  More money is also available for things that add value to my life, like upgrading my Google Drive storage so I can keep all my files in one place and replacing the battery in my watch when it died.

Weekly Update: Week 5

This week saw 3 more eBay sales!  Purging the excess feels good.  Feels even better to get some money while I’m at it.

This week, it finally happened to me.  Every minimalist’s worst nightmare–I needed something I had gotten rid of.  This past weekend was the Kentucky Derby and I had some friends over to watch it and drink mint juleps.  I wanted to put on my Derby hat, a large and outrageously decorated hat I originally made for the Royal Wedding in 2011, but I realized I had gotten rid of it in the recent months of purging.

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The 2 other times I’ve worn the hat

It was upsetting for 5 minutes, but I ultimately realized how little I needed it–In the last 6 years I’d only worn it twice.  This would’ve been the 3rd time, but being a large hat, it takes up so much room that it’s really not worth it to keep for the purpose of the occasional garden party/Kentucky Derby party.  After the initial regret, I considered: what am I really missing out on by not having this hat on for the next 5 minutes?  Not really much.  Being afraid of this happening is/was an irrational fear.


The usual trips to the grocery store — I had a craving for tacos before I realized it was Cinco de Mayo week, so obviously, we had to get taco-making supplies and chips & salsa and have our own homemade taco party!  Other than that, we have really been concentrating on not spending money since we spent so much recently on our various trips and weddings.

There are some significant, yet unavoidable things I will have to spend money on very soon.  While we were out of town, the window regulator for the rear driver’s side window of my car broke.  We have the window duct taped it until it can be fixed, but I know because the same malfunction happened in November 2016 with the front driver’s side window that it will cost a few hundred dollars.

If that weren’t enough, it is that time of year again.  My Bar dues ($265) and yoga teacher’s insurance for the year ($125) are both due soon. *sigh*  At least I can afford all this without having to worry too much, since I haven’t been buying all that stuff I’ve been wanting.  It sucks spending all my money on boring stuff.

One thing that is not completely, but still pretty necessary is the Groupon for a haircut I purchased for myself.  Groupon had a 20% off sale for mother’s day and I will definitely need a haircut in the next few months–I try to get a haircut every 4-6 months.


1.  Adrienne Vittadini Duffel Bag.  While traveling recently, I’ve noticed how much wear-and-tear my luggage has been through.  A weekender bag I got second hand 10 years ago ended up getting donated.  My duffel bag from 5 or so years ago is starting to show signs of wear on the part where the shoulder strap connects to the rest of the bag, but is otherwise in passable condition.  When I saw this great-looking duffel bag on Rue La La (I really need to delete the app off my phone) I was extremely tempted.

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2.  Dave Matthews Band T Shirt.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but Dave Matthews Band has been one of my favorite bands since high school.  I have DMB shot glasses.  No, I will not get rid of them.  When I saw this Cinco de Mayo, $5 t shirt sale, it was more than a little tempting.  I certainly don’t need another t shirt.  I have plenty.

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3.  Board Game “Bad People.”  Last week visiting friends while out of town for a wedding, we spent the evening playing board games.  When a sponsored post for this game, called “Bad People” came up on my feed, I was intrigued.  This seems like a really fun game and not one of the same games that everyone we know has.  This was added to my Amazon wish list, in hopes that maybe for my birthday or Christmas, I will get it as a gift.


4.  Tea Holder/Wallet.  While traveling, I thought about how I didn’t really have a convenient, compact way to travel with some tea since I don’t drink coffee.  As we have at least one trip planned this year in October, identifying and fulfilling my need for items to make travel more convenient seems like a worthwhile investment.  This is where the tea holder/tea wallet comes in.  I could just as easily use any other bag or container.  I do not need a carrier specific to my tea bags.  I have a large wooden box I keep my tea bags in at home, so this tea wallet would only be used for travel.  It doesn’t really seem necessary.  Yet, I wanted to buy it SO much. Nobody said minimalism was easy.


Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $115

Running Total: $394

Minimalist Weddings

Having attended two weddings in April, it’s only natural that it made me nostalgic for my own wedding. 

Long before I had heard of minimalism, I have been living the philosophy in my own life and planning a wedding was no exception.

The Knot reports that the national average wedding cost for 2016 was $35,329.  When we had our wedding in 2013, the country had significantly recovered from the recession and the wedding industry was no exception.  Wedding spending was at the highest level since 2008, and hovered just under $30,000.  These averages take into account the highest-spending markets like Manhattan, where the average is closer to $80,000, and the lower-spending markets that average under $20,000.  We got married near where we live, which is a tourist destination, so the average in our area is slightly higher than the national average, hovering just below $40,000 for 2016.  We didn’t give into the pressure and spent much MUCH less than that.

This is not to say that those who spend closer to the average or even more did anything wrong–if you’ve been saving up for years and want to splurge on this event and pull out all the stops, by all means do so.  It truly is the experience of a lifetime.  Personally, there are lots of other things I could think of to spend the money on.  If, on the other hand, you haven’t been saving up and instead take on $40,000 of debt for this one day, I question why you feel it’s necessary.

It can be very tempting to overspend when planning a wedding, especially when we hear the statistics about “average” wedding costs.  Also, there is evidence that many vendors will charge more for a “wedding” than a “family party” scheduled for the same date, so costs can easily spiral out of control.

Weddings come with lots of expectations: lots of décor, multiple-course catered meal, professional DJ, lighting, multi-tiered cake, and more.  Disregarding the expectations and doing what you and your partner want and what is meaningful for you both is essential to having a minimalist wedding.

The most important thing is to set priorities.  What is the most important thing to you?  Swoon-worthy photos?  Best, most fun reception ever?  The princess dress of your dreams?  Wedding food worth waiting through the ceremony for?  Keep those priorities in sight as you set your budget and make sure to allocate most of the budget to those items.

One of the benefits of this minimalist approach to wedding planning is that it is eco-friendly.  Some level of excess is unavoidable with these types of events, but minimizing it as much as possible is easy.  Everything we bought for the wedding, we either kept, re-sold or donated — or it was rented in the first place.

We had none of the extras people convince try to convince us that we “must have.”  There was no wedding planner, no altar, no aisle runner, no chair covers.  In lieu of save-the-dates, we notified guests of our wedding date online and sent our invitations out earlier than usual.  My wedding dress was a David’s Bridal $99 sale rack dress that required no alterations, which I sold on eBay to recoup some of the money.

Where we did spend extra money, we did so intentionally.  I chose to have professional hair and makeup, which was nice, but obviously not necessary.  I don’t usually wear makeup and have unruly hair, so I wanted professional help on my big day!  I did not, however, pay extra money for “trials” with these vendors.  I trusted them to be able to do it to my liking or be able to fix it the day of.  Instead, we spent money on dance lessons and had a choreographed first dance that wowed our guests—our first dance was one of my favorite things about the day.  My mom came over to me afterwards and hugged me, joyfully sobbing.  It’s a cherished memory.  We also spent money on a butterfly release, as butterflies are a very important symbol to me and I thought it would be a lovely after-ceremony surprise for the guests.  Much more special and meaningful things than extra décor.

One of the main challenges of a minimalist philosophy is eschewing the expectations society tends to put on us.  In a society where an engagement ring is viewed by many as a measure of success and going into debt for a piece of jewelry is expected, choosing a modest ring is almost revolutionary.  The average size and cost of an engagement ring in the United States is about twice the size (and about triple the cost!) of most other countries.


Infographic from

To be honest, I have had my engagement ring for quite a few years now, and have considered “upgrading” the setting from a simple solitaire set in plain yellow gold to a setting with some extra diamonds recently.  Minimalism made me stop and ask myself why I want to upgrade and what I would have to give up in order to upgrade.  I actually really like my ring, but, like so many people, insecurity made me feel like I need to upgrade a perfectly beautiful ring I love (and helped pick out myself!) so people don’t think I’m unsuccessful because of my modest ring.  I would have to give up things like the vacation to Los Angeles this year, and the trip to Europe we plan to take in the next few years.  It would take me that much longer to pay back my student loans.  Like so many other things I have chosen not to buy since embracing minimalism, it’s just not worth it in the long run.

Weekly Update: Week 4

This week was great for selling stuff – the week started off with an eBay sale of another item I’ve been trying to sell for a long time.  $40 in my pocket.  This time the item was something I was gifted, not something I had previously purchased, so this was pure profit for me.  I decided to go through my closet once again and found some more things I want to list on eBay.  I’ve set aside a few more things, but they probably won’t get listed until next week.  They may or may not sell, but I want to try.

At the end of the week I sold another eBay item–I had bought a round Zagg shield for my watch to protect the face quite a few years ago and had purchased the wrong size.  The shipping and fees to return it were not worth it for the relatively inexpensive item, but I ended up making my money back on the deal by selling it on eBay.  I’d had it listed on-and-off since I bought it, but had never sold it.

In addition to my eBay sales, I sold another item in person that gave me $250, which I was happy to accept.



My car started showing the “low washer fluid light” earlier this week and I finally stopped by the auto part store and bought some, since we’re heading on a trip this weekend.

Friday night I had dinner and went to a movie with a friend–just me and her, without my husband.  It allowed us to relate on a deeper level and have a conversation about all kinds of things.

This weekend was the second wedding we were invited to this month.  This one was not local, but was still in the state, so it cost us gas money, a hotel room, gift and some meals out. (Yes, we gave the couple a physical gift–old habits die hard.  I said I’m not perfect, OK?!?!  It’s my year of buying nothing, not theirs.)

We visited some old friends of mine while we were in my old college town.  We had a great weekend visiting friends, playing board games, and we did an escape room, which was a cool new experience for me.  We finished with time to spare.

HOORAY FOR EXPERIENCES!!!!!!!!!  (Next month, we certainly won’t have so many—this truly was quite an unusual month!)


Probably because I sold a bunch of things and had money burning a hole in my pocket, this was a tough week temptation-wise.  My Satchel & Page briefcase arrived on Friday.  It is the last package I am expecting and the last purchase made before starting the year of buying nothing.  It took quite awhile to arrive, due to the company’s Kickstarter-type purchasing method.


1.  Whipping Post Bifold Wallet. I have also been itching to upgrade my wallet ever since I started looking into high quality leather products.  This wouldn’t usually be such a bad thing, except I purchased a lovely Kate Spade wallet just about a year ago, and it’s certainly is no slouch in the quality department.  It strikes me how a year ago, this wallet was the shiny, new, wonderful thing in my bag and how quickly I got bored with it and want to replace it.  A sure sign that things will never be the key to our happiness.


2. Brooks Brothers blouses.  I made the mistake of checking Rue La La and they were having a sale on Brooks Brothers.  I’ve been looking for a white collared shirt, to be honest, as the one I have is one I bought in college and is probably a good 8 years old at this point.  I also saw this really nice pink one.  I can wait until the end of the year to replace the white collared shirt, though.

3.  Victoria’s Secret stuff.  To add insult to injury, the same day when I checked the mail, there was a mailer from Victoria’s Secret with multiple coupons.  Stacking these coupons can yield some really great deals and the triple points will help me keep my Angel Forever status!  This is a tough one.  I have always gone to Victoria’s Secret when I would get coupons like this and it is so strange not to go.  That’s part of how I got the Forever status.  Surely, getting a good deal on underwear and other clothing items is worth it, right?  At least that’s what I used to tell myself.  (Also how I ended up with SO MUCH excess underwear and workout/loungewear).


Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $140 (not including anything I would have purchased had I gone to Victoria’s Secret)

Running Total: $279

The Myth of More

I posted the following minimalist meme on my Facebook page the other day:


It got the following response from my friend, which I simply responded to by posting this article from the Minimalists, in which Joshua Fields Millburn talks about leaving his 6-figure, suit-and-tie corporate job.


My friend responded once again, and I did not respond any further.


This is exactly why we need minimalism.  It is so easy in our society to get stuck in “the Cycle of More” – the more stuff we want, the more money we need, and the more hours we need to work to make ends meet.  When we realize that we can do with a lot less than we thought, we need less time and money to meet our needs and anything over and above that can be used for the things we want – depending on our priorities.

As well-intentioned as my friend might have been, they missed the point.  The nature of our capitalist culture is that there is always something else out there, so if we do not define our priorities, it’s easy to stay in the “Cycle of More” – A person with a Honda wants a BMW, the person with a BMW wants a Maserati, the person with a Maserati wants a Rolls Royce and on and on and on.  There are also innumerable upgrades and personalization options available – paint jobs, rims, seat covers, floor mats, hood ornaments – for a variety of budgets.  And that’s just cars.  Joshua “obtained bad debt and whatnot” because he entered the “Cycle of More.”

It is a myth that we can ever be satisfied by things.  There’s always a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, a newer and/or nicer car, a bigger television, a newer gadget – you name it!  Someone is always going to have something we want.  Without priorities, nothing is ever enough – we could have a salary of $1,000,000 per year and it wouldn’t be enough!  There’s always something bigger and better out there to entice us! As if there isn’t enough pressure from advertisements, marketing, and our own insecurities, other people can put pressure on us, directly and indirectly.

In high school, I worked part time to purchase my own car – a 10-year-old Oldsmobile rust bucket.  It wasn’t pretty, but it got me to work and school and, more importantly it was MINE.  I earned it with my own hard work.  I got my own car before my older brother, because I got a job first.

My parents had a convertible that was about 7 years old at the time and they’d had for a few years but was in PRISTINE condition.  Beautiful and shiny, it was extremely exciting when they let me borrow it on rare occasions.  My friends and I thought we were so hot as we piled in and headed to the mall.  The first friends I picked up squealed with delight as they saw our ride for the day.  When we went to pick up my friend’s boyfriend, I was waiting for him to be impressed, since our usual ride was the rust bucket, but he got into the car and sneered, “Do you have a car that’s NOT old?”  My heart dropped.

I got engaged the summer after my first year of law school staring down crippling student loan debt and bad future job prospects in a tough legal job market.  My then-fiance did not have the good job he has now.  I was accepted for a competitive public interest fellowship from my school, which awarded a stipend to a selected student who had committed the summer semester to working for a public interest agency.  I spent the summer working for Legal Aid, answering phones and interviewing clients to earn my stipend.  We had the conversation about getting engaged and decided to go shopping for a ring together.  Rather than financing it and going into debt for a piece of jewelry, we decided to pay cash on the spot, which we did.  That meant our budget was much smaller than the nearly $6,000 “average.”

I was thrilled with the ring I helped choose.  I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful ring.  It was exactly what I wanted.  We chose a timeless ring—a sparkly, brilliant, half-carat round solitaire on a simple, plain 14-karat gold band.  Eschewing typical American values, we prized quality over size, which is why my ring regularly attracts attention and gets compliments, despite its relatively modest size compared to American expectations.  (Just because I’m a minimalist doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy compliments!) When I recently went to have the ring cleaned and inspected – a service provided for free by the jewelry store we purchased it from – the clerk who cleaned it actually asked me what I use to clean it at home because it is so sparkly. (In case you’re curious, I swear by Goddard’s products –another voluntary, non-sponsored product endorsement).

It is a gorgeous ring and it never occurred to me that some people expected an engagement ring to be bigger and flashier, until I started showing it off.  A law school classmate, after seeing my ring, commented that she would say no if it was less than 2 carats.  (Indeed, there are people who believe that a woman should refuse less than a 1 carat diamond engagement ring as evidence the man does not love her enough).  Another chimed in she would say no if it wasn’t a designer ring by Tacori.  I wanted to cry.  This ring, which was such a source of pride and a symbol of love, made me feel embarrassed temporarily, until I gave myself a pep talk about not needing to impress those people.

This is why such an important part of minimalism is resisting these pressures.  While my friend’s boyfriend was incredibly rude about my car, he was in high school.  My law school classmates, on the other hand, I’m afraid had no justification for such snobbery.  When you are feeling undue pressure to enter the “Cycle of More” to impress people, remember this:

“To the barefoot man, happiness is a pair of shoes. To the man with old shoes, it’s a pair of new shoes. To the man with new shoes, it’s stylish shoes. And of course, the fellow with no feet would be happy to be barefoot. Measure your life by what you have not by what you don’t.”
― Michael Josephson

Weekly Update: Week 3

I made another sale on eBay!

An ill-considered clothing purchase that still has the tags on.  It makes me feel so horrible to admit that.  The past is the past and I cannot change it.  All I can do is purge the excess and make better (and fewer) purchases in the future. $15 for the item.  Less than I would have wanted ideally, considering it was brand new, but at least I got a little money and got the item out of my closet.

Minimalism has already helped me achieve the clarity to focus on what’s important. After visiting with my in-laws for our niece’s birthday last weekend, we are visiting my parents this weekend!  I’m very close with my parents and I haven’t seen them since Christmas, despite the fact that they live relatively close to us, so I am very exited to go see them!  Focusing on these important relationships gives me a sense of purpose.

Despite having explained the year of buying nothing, my mom wanted to take me shopping, as usual.  We visited a local gift shop with lots of lovely little trinkets, and despite seeing several things I liked, I didn’t really need any of it.  Mom really wanted to buy me something, though, so I settled on letting her buy me some guest soaps – one shaped like a seashell, another shaped like a turtle and a 3rd shaped like a mermaid.  At least it was consumable and I had wanted to buy some cute hand soaps for our bathroom, as we have a soap dish instead of using liquid soap.  (This is because many liquid hand soaps are anti bacterial, killing good bacteria on our hands.  Most products labeled “antibacterial,” including antibacterial hand soap, contain the antibacterial agent triclosan, which may be harmful to human health and the environment.  But I digress.)


We did sort of a big trip to the store.  Our monthly stock-up trip to BJs is arguably not the most minimalist thing ever (Yes, we now have SO MUCH TOILET PAPER) but old habits die hard.  Being that it’s just the two of us, it takes awhile to go through the toilet paper and other things we buy in unreasonable quantities, but we somehow store it all in our small condo and actually benefit from not having to buy nonperishables like that on a regular basis.  We know we’re covered for awhile and save time and money buying in bulk.  What can I say – it’s a balancing act and we’re not perfect.

We obviously spent money on gas to go to my parent’s house–Well worth the tank of gas to spend valuable time with my family.

And now is the part where I make a confession to you, dear readers.  I was unaware until recently just how liberal Nordstrom’s return policy is.  Apparently, they are famous for accepting a return on almost anything, so long as it can be established the item is one the store had ever sold.  Obviously, I would never take advantage by trying to return something that showed signs of wear–this item really had practically never been used.

I purchased a chiffon wrap for a wedding (not any of the most recent ones, but one that was awhile ago) in a color that really didn’t go with anything.  It was expensive and I only used it the one time, wearing it over my shoulders for about 5 minutes before setting it on the back of my chair for the rest of the evening as I danced.  I’d always kind of regretted the purchase after that, but never considered returning it as it had no tags and I had already gotten rid of the receipt.  Lucky for me, it was still listed for sale on the store’s website.  So when I recently read an article that Nordstrom’s famously flexible return policy might be changing, I decided I had to at least try to return it ASAP.

Unfortunately, the Nordstrom near us closed about a year ago and there is not a physical store within 100 miles of our house anymore.  There is one at the mall near my parents’ house, though.  Seeing an opportunity, I brought the wrap with me on my visit with my parents and returned it at the local Nordstrom.  They gave me a credit for the full amount I paid.  I decided to spend the credit while I was there, so I took a quick look in the bag section (you will eventually believe me when I say I am a handbag addict) and found a cute Madewell shoulder bag in black that was on sale.


I had to pay the difference, and I did accumulate something nonconsumable during the Year of Buying Nothing.  However, I still consider the transaction to be very minimalist–I exchanged an item I have pretty much never used and purchased a high quality bag I’ll get lots of use out of.  So for that, sorry not sorry.


Surprisingly, nothing.  Since my digital decluttering, I am exposed to far fewer advertisements in my email and on my social media, which is where the bulk of the advertising I’m exposed to occurs.  Without the prompting from advertisements, I am not browsing online nearly as much.  It’s easier than I thought it would be. There were a few things here and there that were tempting, but I didn’t consider them seriously enough to list them here.