reflections on beauty and minimalism

Lately I have been struggling with two things as I simplify my life.

1) I am finding minimalism aesthetically boring. Not the true design concept of it (which can be beautiful and interesting) but the way that I can afford to live it out right now.

My surroundings are very important to me. They shape my mood and productivity and sense of contentment. I want to break out of convention and make our living spaces beautiful and magical. I have an urge lately to embrace my creativity- which is a big part of living “fully.” I know that I could do this on a budget, and I could get creative about recycling as to limit consumption, but I’m not sure quite how to do this in our current apartment without collecting stuff.

This has all led me to reflect on what I find beautiful and magical. For the most part it is nature and any way that nature can be intertwined in our lives and spaces. I love treehouses. I love tiny little cob cottages. I love greenhouse home additions. Anything tucked away in nature, preferably near water, is a dream to me. And those kinds of elements carried out through a house warm my soul.

I simultaneously rediscovered the tiny house movement on several blogs and have been fascinated by what people are creating. Which leads me to my next struggle… 2) while it seems to provide an answer, tiny house living is somewhat impractical for a family with young children- particularly in Minnesota, in large part because of the bitter cold winters here and therefore the need for little ones to be indoors a large chunk of the year. Also impractical for us is the fact that land, building materials and time for a project like this (even when it means no mortgage) is far from our reach. Plus it would take some effort and persuasion to convince my husband of all its merits. And much to my chagrin, I have found little evidence online of very young families doing this successfully.

With both of us in school and parenting a soon-to-be toddler, I’m not sure why I am so anxious for another monumental shift in our lives. Perhaps I have become too accustomed to change. So I am trying to settle for contentment right now. We like our apartment in the middle of the city. It serves us well for the time. Maybe the answer is patience. If I don’t collect more things now, we can have that kind of beauty enveloping us and flourishing in our lives later.

I have started to “plant seeds” with my husband, hoping that tiny house living may be in our future some day. I especially love the idea of building our own unique and magical home out of reclaimed treasures that we can collect together over the years. Something that we can put our own sweat and imagination into.

With this hope for the future, I will live expectantly in the present. For the time being, if anyone has ideas (other than painting, because I’m not sure we can do that in our rental) for making an apartment magical without accumulating a bunch of decor, please comment!




hanging up the smart phone

My Samsung Galaxy SII has now totally failed me. I was making due with its delays and quirks, but now it has a mind of its own- powering down and back on without any prompting. When I went in to see if it could be fixed, my provider immediately tried to upsell me, which didn’t sit well. Our service has been terrible anyway, and we have been looking into new carriers. My husband’s phone dying a similar death this last week was the last straw. While most people would be frustrated, I enjoyed the relatively phone-less weekend and have looked at this as an opportunity for simplifying.

I have (for the time being) bowed out of the never-ending technology rat race. I am now smart-phone-less for the first time in two years, and I don’t think I will miss it much. I typically have a couple other devices (albeit older) on me that connect to wifi anyway, so my life won’t change too drastically. Fortunately it will be less tempting to jump on Facebook at any spare moment, which will only stand to benefit my son and other close relationships.

I also feel strangely like I won. My provider tried to convince me that I needed the latest technology- the $600 phone that would be outdated in a year and probably not work after two. Instead, I reconnected a basic phone that I received for free with a contract four years ago, which is still up and running (and that we had to rely on for an alarm clock when both of our very expensive, “nice” phones were on the fritz).

Still, my husband cannot be convinced. He went with the Galaxy S5- $99 with a two-year contract. Our total monthly bill comes to $120- $30 of which is my phone/plan (and not contracted). I will be saving us over $300 a year by checking Facebook, etc. from my other devices. The one big downside for me is that I will no longer have a very nice camera on me at all times. But I do have a great actual camera that I will likely now turn to more often.

What made this whole leap possible (and it does feel like a leap) is knowing that if I am desperate to have a smart phone again, I can sign into a contract at any point and still get the deal. But I can’t see that happening.

Better service, cheaper bill, simpler life. Thank you for powering down smart phone; you have shown me the way.




walking the walk: update

After majorly downsizing my clothes earlier this year, I sorted out the brand-name pieces in the best shape and sent them to Twice, an online consignment site. I chose this site because I have purchased clothes from them before, they make it super simple to consign by sending you a bag and paying for the shipping, and they accept most of the brands that I wear. It was easy! The turn around was several weeks but I made $53.50 (cash, not credit) from selling 18 items, and they donated whatever they couldn’t accept. Their standards are pretty straight forward so you have a good idea when you send it what you’ll get.

I made several trips to the thrift store for the non-name-brand items.

These two tasks were accomplished right away, but I had a really difficult time getting the rest of it out of my house. What was left was bound for local consignment, and (a) it was hard to find a place that would accept items that weren’t pressed and on hangers. Mine were clean and nicely boxed, but I couldn’t justify putting that much more time in to get so little in return. And (b) I just wanted to get paid and go, not wait around to see if it sells and for how much. I am sure there are benefits to putting in the time and work, but I am focused on keeping things simpler than that right now.

Plus, (c) with my husband’s opposite schedule, I had to find a way to get it over to the store with our 9-month-old in tow… No easy task when it means taking several large boxes out to the car and hauling them into a store (with inconvenient parking).

But this weekend I did it! And I made another $40.50.

Unfortunately, neither of the two places accept maternity clothes, so they are still here. I currently have an ad up on craigslist selling them as a lot. I’m hoping they sell before our move. If not, they may go to yet another consignment store or the thrift store if it comes to that.

Now it’s “one in, one out” from here forward. I received a gift card for my birthday which I’m planning to hold on to so that I can replace things as they become worn or stained, etc., which is now a bigger deal than it used to be. For the most part, though, I am enjoying the change. It has simplified laundry days, mornings, and, of course, our move considerably.

the art of giving

In my anxiety over moving in the next few months, I decided to head down to the storage unit (which has spilled out into our shared basement) to tackle the task of simplifying stuff we haven’t seen, let alone used, for years. For the most part, I am finding it fairly easy to let go. It helps that I’ve dedicated myself to this, changed my mindset quite a bit, and am really on a roll. Still, there are those few quality things that I know I won’t use, but I like them so much they seem to deserve better than being thrown into a random donation bin. When I get stuck here, I have found it helpful and even enjoyable to think of someone in my life who might really love the thing too. Brainstorming in itself is fun, and offering it is especially great because it’s unexpected. Usually people appreciate that you thought of them and are grateful to take things they will use and enjoy off your hands. So far I have given away the following things with this result:
A teapot
Kitchen utensils
And gardening stuff

Giving really is better than receiving, lately even more so.