I’ve fallen off the wagon. In the past 13 months I have been so strung out and exhausted from graduate school that I have lost touch with my minimalist side.
Our budget is out of control. Real talk: somehow 2 people have managed to spend around $4000 a month for a year. That’s way more than we have brought in, considering it’s been 13 months since I’ve gotten a paycheck. Our savings are in shambles. And my self esteem is in the toilet. How did I let this happen? Why did we just spend $120 at Target. Did I really need that moped? HOW DID WE SPEND OVER $1000 ON FOOD THIS MONTH!?
The clutter is piling up. I look at the mess in the kitchen and try to pretend it isn’t there. The “junk cabinet” is at a horrifying level. The fiance made a joke the other day that my “Chinese element is cardboard” as the Amazon purchases roll in. Stupid stress shopping.
As I beat myself up over how far I’ve drifted from my ideals, I remember the ideals that my new principal (I finished my master’s and got a teaching job by the way!) ingrained in us: “fail early and fail often.” My minimalist journey is still fairly young. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process. Fail forward. I can’t let the mistakes I’ve made paralyze me. Instead I will keep them in mind as I get myself back on track. Keep moving forward.
This semester I am taking a course called “Learning and Technology” for my master’s program. Initially, I had wanted to learn how to successfully implement technology into the classroom but the way my professor has designed the course is around the abundance of learning opportunities offered in this connected world we live in.
One of our tasks is to create a 20% project. This means devoting 20% of class time to learning anything of interest to us. The idea comes from Google’s 20% project, where Google employees devote 20% of their work time to their own personal interests. I love that companies are gravitating towards this model of letting people follow their passions while earning a paycheck.
I have always been troubled by the mentality of “work to earn a paycheck so you have money to do what you want.” In reality you may have the money to do what you want but working a job you hate drains your energy and time, so is there really time to follow your passions? It’s a broken idea. But following your passion involves huge risks and a lot of sacrifices that some are afraid to take. A company that allows its employees 20% time allows freedom and security to do what you like without the risk.
Anyways, you can read about my 20% project here. What do you think about 20% projects?
Last week I was catsitting for my friend and visiting her apartment for the first time I fell in love. There was something beautiful and comforting about the space with its aged wood floors, candles, ancient stove, and consignment store furniture. I had been contemplating redecorating for a while (since I perpetually crave change) and her space just spoke to me.
As I sat on the couch petting the cat I spotted this book on the bookshelf:
The dust jacket read, “Simply put, wabi-sabi is the marriage of the Japanese wabi, meaning humble, and sabi, which connotes beauty in the natural progression of time. Together, the phrase invites us to set aside our pursuit of perfection and learn to appreciate the simple, unaffected beauty of things as they are.”
Intrigued, I began paging through the book. I read about the origin of wabi-sabi in Japanese tea ceremonies. I skimmed the chapter on creating space. I read passages about forgoing complexity for simplicity, celebrating damaged goods, and opting for the handmade over the mass-produced.
I’m hooked. This idea of wabi-sabi is a merger of minimalism and sustainability. In a nutshell, it encourages letting go of things that are not beautiful, functional, and meaningful (minimalism), repairing rather than replacing (sustainability), and making (or if you aren’t crafty purchasing) good quality handcrafted items from available resources. It also embraces celebration of aging and imperfection rather than pursuing eternal youth and imperfection. Simply put, age and imperfection gives character.
I’ve had a revelation. I’m a stress shopper. Since I’ve delved deeper into grad school and teaching I’ve been pulling 14 hour days every day. At the same time I’ve been doing my best to prop up my grieving, insomniatic fiance who is dealing with the double loss of his friend and father over summer. I’ve been stressed, to say the least. But I believed I was handling it well. I’ve been keeping on top of my schoolwork (although the apartment has gotten a bit messy and my diet has become more fast food than I care to admit). I’ve kept up my twice a week yoga and twice a week 3 mile run. I was feeling like superwoman.
It turns out I’ve been taking my stress out on Amazon. Archery equipment, accessories for my iThings, boots, sandals, a Bill Nye the Science Guy DVD. I’m out of control. When I realized I had ordered 7 items from Amazon in 3 days it dawned on me that I was having a compulsion. I was stress shopping. All of my minimalist philosophy went out the window because, damn, those boots were cute.
So I may just have to put my credit cards on ice until I get my stress under control. Literally.
Postings have been sparse lately, there’s been a lot going on this summer. But I have been meaning to write this post for a while. It’s about my darling little fluffkins that started me on this simplifying journey. Well they’ve helped in a different way too. For anyone who knows they want to let go of things but are having trouble with it, I suggest getting a pair of rats (at least two, they are social animals) and releasing them in your house. They are pretty indiscriminate in their capacity to destroy anything and everything. For example, here is a comforter they got their little hands on:
And here is little Fluffer herself eating a pencil as I type this:
So hey, if your having a hard time deciding what to eliminate, or just letting go in general… let the rats do the thinking for you. They will also help you foster a sense of detachment from your material possessions since it will all end up with holes eventually. And those little balls of fluff are so darn cute it’s not like you’ll want to get rid of them 😉
Today I read a Lifehacker post which touched on the psychological effects of clutter. There’s some interesting stuff in there from your brain registering giving up an item as physical pain to how just touching something causes a bond to form to the spike in stress hormones from dealing with excess stuff. There’s also some simple tips on managing clutter. Enjoy!
If you didn’t know, I’m a fan of the blog A Practical Wedding. It’s a refreshing voice in the sea of wedding blogs focused purely on aesthetics, taking time to tackle some of the big issues of wedding planning (like all of those raging emotions!). Today there was a post on revelations while being Unplugged and I wanted to take the time to share some great quotes, so here they are:
- “So we were lying together in the hammock, holding hands, watching the sun turn the tops of the trees pink, and listening to the birds sing their farewell song. I realized the moment reminded me of the best parts of my childhood, and that I hadn’t been able to just sit and enjoy my surroundings like this for ages. The hard work of unplugging was finally paying off, and for the first time in a long time I felt like my work was serving my life, instead of my life serving my work.”
- “We’re the land of huge houses, huge cars, huge credit card debts, and hugely long working days, so we were never going to be worried about having just enough. Nope. We want it all. And we’re juggling and hustling and stressing and guilting ourselves as we strive for a goal that we are convinced isn’t impossible…”
- “If you add that up and assume 8 hours of sleep a night, that gives the average American a grand total 13 free hours a week, give or take. And by ‘free time’ I mean time they need to spend eating and dressing themselves.”
- “‘My problem wasn’t so much working in front of computers all day. My problem was the way my brain was reacting off of computers. My old, less jumpy brain was what I was missing. I missed that unspooling reel of thought. I missed writing longhand and not wondering if an email had come in while I was doing it. I missed staring up at the leaves on a tree and thinking about nothing in particular.'”
- “’Even as I watch myself, and those around me, cramming our days with messages to check, alerts to read, and Pinterest boards to fill, I know those actions are not really our goal. We’re reading blogs because we crave smart conversation and connection. We’re pinning things to remind us of what our lives could be. We’re finding places online that we fit, to remind us of who we are. But at some point you have to stop pinning, and start doing. Sure, those pinboards of party ideas are great, but what’s really excellent is lying around the deck with your friends eating cake, not thinking about doing it.’”
- “Unplugging allowed me to step back and get some perspective on what matters in the flesh and blood world. And it’s my kid, my husband, my friends, and doing work I love.”
Now I love the internet, but sometimes we need to step away for a while so it doesn’t take over. The internet can be an awesome way to connect with people and a great learning tool, but when we allow it to overstep its bounds it detracts from meaningful moments in our lives.