year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Eleven

Last week’s post was inspired by a quote, and so is this week’s. A man at a racial justice or families belong together rally was asked if he really thinks protesting can change the country. He said “I don’t protest to change my country. I protest so my country doesn’t change me.” This really stuck with me for obvious reasons, but without opening a political can of worms, let’s apply it to the environment and my project.

I used to love taking time to upcycle, DIY home projects, try and fail at different zero waste ventures, and more. But once I had a kid, I valued my time more than any other impact my actions might make. I ordered as much as I could from Amazon because I could buy and receive without leaving the house – I didn’t think about the implications of shipping a few items via plane or truck. Instead of trying to find a way to recycle, upcycle, or donate items, I would just throw them away because I wanted to get rid of them NOW.

I know a lot of that is instant gratification and being impatient, and I know I have issues with both of those things. I always have, and the internet has not made it any easier. But I am trying to get back to the mindset I had when it was just me. Strangely enough, that was when I blogged all the time, worked full time, and made more money than I needed to live on. I didn’t have much to do in my free time (#hermit) so I researched zero waste and made my own products and experimented a lot.

Lately, despite everything else that has happened in my life, I have been looking back at that brief period with happiness. I know I had problems at that point in my life, but this small aspect of my life made me happy, and it is something I can easily get back – and now I can include my son.

He already loves helping in the yard and garden. He “helps” hang clothes on the clothesline. Those are both things I didn’t have the ability to do when I was renting that smaller place. So now, though I own my own home and have a kid and therefore have different bills and worries, I also have more ways to explore my impact on the environment.

That quote also has me re-assessing what I buy, and why, and what my alternatives are. I am going to sound like a total nerd, but I am starting to research most things in my life. Plastic waste is so massive, and it’s easy for me to cut down on disposable straws but what about yogurt? My son can eat two cups a day, which makes a lot of plastic to recycle. Or uppcycle, as we have been lately – those cups are a great size for seed starters. But would it be better to buy one large container or yogurt? Is that really less plastic? Are there yogurt brands that package their product in cardboard, like a milk carton? If so, even if it is more expensive, it would be worth it to me to buy that. Because I am protesting with my money, and even if buying a different yogurt doesn’t stop the other yogurt companies from using plastic, I am still staying true to myself. I am “protesting” with my money to stay true to myself, while hoping to make a change in someone else, or something larger.

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Ten

Conversations with two different friends about furniture and this great quote Martha Reynolds shared about WHY you own things being more important than what you own inspired me this week.

One friend is trying to find the perfect furniture to invest in to put in her rental space – but buying furniture is expensive. My other friend has owned her house a few years but has only bought 3 pieces of furniture – the rest are hand-me-downs and garage sale finds.

That made me take stock of my own furniture. Most of my furniture has been hand-me-downs from my brother and/or his friends; when they moved, they’d ask if anyone needed X or Y, and I would usually take it to upgrade the X or Y I had gotten from someone else’s move the year before!

When I rented a small duplex, I searched for a nice tall kitchen table and chairs to fit in a little space off the kitchen. I found one better than I could have imagined, and it’s the table I still have today. Once I bought my house, I searched for the perfect couch. I bought it about a month after I moved in, and slept on it or an air mattress until I bought a bed. When my husband moved in, I bought a larger dresser for all of our clothes and moved my old dresser to the baby’s room. Besides baby furniture and IKEA-ish bookshelves, those are the only furniture items I’ve bought new. I have gotten rid of the baby things and am trying to get rid of the large dresser, now that my stuff all tucks away in my closet.

The computer/TV is on a small desk my dad had when he was a kid. He kept it and I used it as a desk when I was younger, and it moved with me time and time again. My old DVD shelves looked like they matched and stood on either side of the desk like it was a nice piece of “real” furniture. When I got rid of a lot of DVDs and used something else for storage, I got rid of the shelves but kept the desk. It’s nice and simple and the perfect size; I can sit at it as a desk when I need to, or have it be a TV stand when my kid is watching a show.

I have a “card catalog” CD storage system that my mom bought me for my first apartment. It has moved with me everywhere, no exception. It is probably my favorite piece of furniture. When I got rid of most of my CDs, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could do with it, because there was no way I could get rid of it. Luckily, I found that DVDs fit in longways, the opposite of CDs, so what’s left of my CD collection is in the top row, and the rest of the drawers are full of DVDs. Practical, out-of-sight storage, and I get to keep my favorite furniture piece.

Then there are bookshelves. A lot of bookshelves… but I am about to get rid of one big one! I might be way too excited about that, but it will make my “office” space look a lot bigger, and will free up some wall space so I can hang some art I’ve been wanting to display.

Do I sit at the kitchen table much? No. Nor do I use the 4 chairs there. I don’t sit in my armchair or glider much, and have considered getting rid of both. And that cute little recliner that I couldn’t resist buying for my kid when he was 2… he doesn’t sit there much. But I also think that I could move these chairs into different spaces and they would get more use. The kitchen table will get more use once school starts and we have a stricter routine and eat dinner together at the table every night instead of staggered due to the other tasks I have to get done.

My main focus for a long time was getting rid of the smaller items, like clothes, books, CDs, DVDs. Now that I’ve done that, I can focus on getting rid of the bigger things that housed those items. The reason WHY I needed them isn’t an issue anymore – because there isn’t anything to put on or in them. I have made sure I can keep the sentimental items and have them stay useful, but everything else is up for grabs. I will move some around and see if it gets used, but if not – it’s gone.

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Nine

This week was better than the last, overall, but there was some back and forth.

+/- I cooked healthy dinners, but still got sick in the middle of the week. I get a summer cold every year but I always forget, so I’m always moderately outraged when I get sick – “how could this happen to me?!” It was especially frustrating because I ate junk food the week before, then started eating healthy, THEN got sick. I think someone is telling me to not eat my vegetables…

+/- I saved money in some areas of my life, and spent money in other areas… Besides eating out once, the purchases weren’t frivolous, so I guess that’s mostly a positive.

+/- I feel like I have been taking advantage of my free time. I have been reading, but it’s productive reading because they are books I need to read for review or work. I haven’t been taking advantage of using that time to write my book or curriculum, though, which is what I really need to do to meet some deadlines… and because both are related to paychecks! Yikes.

A definite positive is that I have been washing dishes fairly regularly – almost every night, except the night my sickness hit hard. I like getting it done and getting it out of the way so it’s not hanging over my head. It makes the kitchen look nicer and cleaner, of course, and it’s quick and easy to wash up while I’m cooking dinner or after I make our lunches in the morning.

Cleaning the house and getting rid of things have taken a backseat lately. I still have a pile of stuff that will be donated eventually, or once I have a chance to add more, but really my focus right now is my mindset and my routines. It might sound stupid since I’m a grown up and should easily adjust to changes, but it takes me awhile to get used to new routines. The calendar year has brought a lot of job, family, house, and child care changes. It’s taken me some time to adjust to each, and then something else will change. And my summer schedule is different than my school year schedule will be in a few months, so even this is temporary and I am trying to just simplify my life enough to make these changes easier to adjust to, if that makes any sense. I’m not sure it even makes sense to me, but I am trying to make it all work and provide the most stability I can for my son, so that’s my focus right now.


year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Eight

This week found me overloaded. I was trying to stay positive and stay on top of things and while nothing majorly awful happened, I just feel down. I am tired and worn out and impatient and frustrated with myself.

I have been eating junk. I get home too tired to cook a nice meal, or am too tired to buy fresh produce at the store, so I just eat whatever. When I have an appetite. Most of my dinners have been “snacks”.

But I’ve been super hungry during the day, so I ate lunch out thrice last week at work. Expensive and not the best food. I mean, it was delicious, but so unhealthy.

It was rainy on laundry day so I had to use the dryer for two loads of clothes.

Possibly related to dryer use, but I’m not sure: one of my son’s t-shirts came out of the laundry with several major holes in the back. I didn’t check it before I washed it but I can’t imagine how he would have gotten holes there on his own. I folded the rest of the laundry worried that there would be more holes in things – there’s no way I could replace that many of our clothes, even thrifting! Thankfully that seemed to be the only ruined garment.

My utility bill is higher for the past month. Not a huge deal because I know the temp outside is hotter so my AC is working harder, but not a fun thing to get in the mail.

My biggest thing to address this week (and following weeks): I need to push myself to get more done in my down time, instead of wasting time.

A few pluses:

We went to a new splash pad over the weekend. It cost $5 to play for 50 minutes but it is a beautiful, fun place, so it was worth it to make my son happy – he had been talking about it all week!

We also went to the Children’s Museum. (The reason I mentioned how much the other splash pad costs is because we can access the Children’s Museum splash pad for free with our membership.) We only went for a couple hours to play with certain things, but it was still nice to get out of the house because our weekends are often just being low key at home.

We went to another show at the Levitt Shell with friends, which is fun and free!

We got some great things at the grocery store – fresh fruit and veggies and plenty of dinners that won’t be too hard for me to cook after a long day. We also got a free loaf of fancy pants bread! I don’t typically eat bread, but it was the weekly Free Friday so you know I couldn’t pass it up!

I need to keep the positives in mind, however small, and focus on improving from there. I just have a few big things that stress me out when I think about them, but they have deadlines so I NEED to think about them – well, I need to WORK ON THEM! Does anyone have tips for kicking their butt into gear?

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Seven

This week I focused on being outside. After a relaxing vacation at a friend’s house, I was inspired to work more on my yard. My friend has a gorgeous, shady yard, a nice patio she uses multiple times a day, a pretty flowerbed out front, and a garden out back.

My son and I started a “garden” this summer… except the weather was so crazy and we are such uncertain farmers that we only planted a bunch of purple onions and a grape plant. The onions look like they’re doing well, though, so that’s really encouraging. We only tilled part of the pre-existing “circle” we have in the back yard (some sort of flowerbed or garden enclosed with bricks that never had anything in it since I’ve lived here) for the onions, so I’m definitely going to work on the whole thing this fall and next spring and get it ready for more plants.

There is another small section of the yard that will be easy to turn into a garden, too, so I will get that ready over time.

As far as the front yard, I’m actually deconstructing it right now. Tall bushes used to block some of the front porch for privacy, but I didn’t like it because when I lived here alone, I didn’t like the idea of someone waiting on my porch. Plus we have a porch swing, so after chopping them down last year I can sit on the swing while my son plays in the front yard, in full view. I still need to dig up a few bushes’ roots, though.

There are azaleas growing in front of another part of the house, and they’re gorgeous but half dead, so even in full bloom you see sad dead spots. I might get help from my mom on how to nurture them back, if possible, but I’m also fine with digging them up. I like the idea of putting down sod where these bushes all were and just having a full grass front yard for a bit before deciding what to plant.

We spend more time out back anyway, and while I know the front of the house is what everyone sees, I want to make the backyard really enjoyable and productive before making the front pretty.

We have a decent patio out back, but it is the only shade in my yard. I loved it for not having trees because I didn’t have to worry about roots ruining my plumbing or falling on my house, but my that shade was nice last week! So in time I would like to dismantle my old, somewhat-rickety patio and build a nice, shady pergola that maybe some plants can grow on or hang from.

All of this will take time and work, but I started this week and it helped me feel so focused and productive and in the right state of mind that I need right now. Getting back to nature definitely does wonders for your emotional being!

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Six

Remember when I said I spent a lot of money repairing my car? Nothing expensive in the scheme of things, but it really threw off my monthly figures?

Well, I got a flat on my way home from my first day of my new job. Wonderful, right? Just days after I got my car checked over, and just days before going out of town.

Besides that, it was a good week. I met some coworkers at my new job, got started setting up my space (it’s mostly physical labor at this point), and then got to take off for a long weekend. Not too shabby, huh?

The mindset of this past week was adapting and accepting. This new job gives us a new schedule, so I’ve been thinking about how to streamline chores and things to fit around those hours.

I have been trying to be more present in my daily life, trying to have more patience in general, and trying to focus on one thing at a time. There is so much I want to do, and so much I need to do, that I am working on finding the balance there.

Working around my new job, I am thinking I might get up earlier and work on something creative. I’ve missed writing and am slowly getting back into it, and I think waking up and having coffee and writing longhand will be a wonderful way to ease into the day.

I’ll work, do any errands on the way home, and then do any chores while my son eats dinner and has a bath.

After the bustle of the day and once my son is in bed, I think I will work on my contract book. It is more “work” than “creative”, so I’m a little worried that I won’t be in the mood by the end of the day. But it’s something I can draft with a podcast or show on in the background, and it can still be somewhat relaxing yet productive. Then I can edit it on weekends during his naps, or something like that.

Knowing I can make time for all of this really invigorates me. Too often I wait until a deadline and then push too hard to get it all done. But I want to use my time more meaningfully, and I think this will make it work.

The trip this weekend was so relaxing, just spending time with friends and exploring a new city. It reminded me of how I used to feel and how I used to travel, and it’s a feeling I want to harness and use in my daily life, also. That relaxed pace of vacation can still fit into your everyday life if you give enough time to complete tasks. I can wake up a little earlier and leave the house a little earlier so there is no rush to get ready and get to work. I can enjoy every (well, ok, MOST) moments instead of anxiously looking ahead to what needs to be done.

I unplugged from my phone a lot this weekend, and didn’t even have a computer with me, and it felt great. I want to remember that feeling and try to do as much computer work as I can at one time. I’d rather sit at the computer for 2 hours and get a week’s worth of posts and promotions done than have to log on for a few minutes every day. I think that separation will also keep me from looking at random things online for too long!

While this week wasn’t minimal at all – more driving, more gas fill-ups, more eating out – it had a minimal mentality that totally refreshed me emotionally as well as my outlook for life as it changes.


year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Five

This past week was hard, emotionally. I had so much to get done before starting a new job (more on that later) and going on a trip, and I have so much going on in my personal life that I hardly got any sleep, and felt nauseous all week.

On the plus side, instead of letting that overwhelm me and drown me, I pushed through and got everything done! I used to be like that, but over the past few years I have definitely become lazier. I thought it was just me, changing my personality or letting motherhood exhaust me too much. But pushing through this week was a huge revelation that I am changing back to who I was before, and it really inspired me!

  • I recorded 3 podcasts for We Are Storytellers! Two were interviews that will air later, and it was so much fun to talk to two writers/illustrators! One was a Choose Your Own Adventure story I started writing that will continue in future episodes. It was nice to get all of these done before my time to devote to this project is significantly reduced!
  • The Choose Your Adventure podcast meant I was writing! I stayed up one night after my son went to bed finishing out some storylines, and it felt so nice to be writing at night like I used to in college.
  • I am presenting a program about podcasts at a big library branch today so I had to work on notes and ideas for that, also. I got it done and have SO MANY pages of notes, I might have to cut myself off at times!
  • I did laundry and hung it out on the line again. This is a huge accomplishment because I used the clothesline all the time when I had cloth diapers because it got them so clean and dry, but once diapers weren’t an issue, my laziness usually won and I put everything in the dryer even on nice sunny days. I’ve hung out laundry several times so far this summer even though the simple act gets me sweaty quickly!
  • My kid and I went to two free concerts at the Levitt Shell! They put on free concerts every summer, usually Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. We’ve been to maybe one each summer, but we went on Friday and Sunday this past week and it was so much fun! The shows are free and you can bring blankets, chairs, food, and drinks – or buy food and drinks there. Such a cool thing that makes me love this city so much.
  • Talk about free entertainment – we went to two libraries for their Explore Memphis (summer learning) kickoffs! The Central Library had music IN the library lobby – so really we heard live music every day this weekend! They also had face painting, and art tables, and their children’s department is so often we just played back there for awhile. Then we went to our favorite library branch to sign up for the summer reading challenge, gets some snacks, and play with bubbles! Free for the win!
  • We played a lot with toys that had been put away for awhile. As much as I get the purging bug (wow that sounds gross) and want to get rid of toys, my son definitely cycles through them. The best I can do for now is put them away in attractive ways so that when he wants to play, he can pull out something old instead of feel bored and want a new toy.
  • We played outside in our little pool a lot too. I need to be careful about letting it drain completely, but it’s hard for me because it’s so much water being used! And all it does is water our grass and give me more to mow, haha. I might start scooping some out to water our garden and even our indoor plants so I don’t feel as wasteful. Water waste is something I need to write about more, also.
  • I focused a lot on what I want my house to look like on the outside. I usually ignore it, except for mowing the grass. But there are some bushes I want to dig up, and I need to lay more grass in parts, and fix up my porch. This was something I got really lazy about in the past two years so it’s nice to focus on it again.
  • We are ready to start a new summer camp and new job together, and it really couldn’t have worked out better. I am so grateful that, with life not being what I expected right now, some little things are coming together to show me that it’s still the right path, even if it’s different.
  • I have also been focusing on my emotional life and anxiety and sleep patterns. Once we start this new chapter it will be easier to get on a schedule, though I still usually let it go since it’s summer and stays light so late! But once we start getting up earlier, I am going to plan some time to write – for fun and for work.

The not-so-goods:

  • I spent a lot of money this past week. They were necessary expenses, but it still feels like a punch in the gut to look at my bank account. I spent more than I usually spend in an entire month…
  • One major expense was car repairs. The report back about my 15 year old car was better than expected, though, and the maintenance was less expensive than I estimated, so really this could be on the plus side…
  • Seeing new bands at the Levitt Shell for free doesn’t actually turn out to be free, because I fall in love with these artists and buy their music! Right now I am binging on Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, whom we saw Friday night. The band is a man and his mom – how sweet is that?! Their music is so good on its own, but when I think of them making music together and touring together, it makes my heart so happy. Imagine all the memories they are making together! I love it.
  • No grocery spending this week, but I haven’t been making good dinners. As I mentioned, I’ve felt nauseous and sick a lot so I haven’t been eating much, and when I did eat, it was yucky comfort food that was yummy in the moment – mac and cheese, corn dogs, chicken nuggets. Basically my 4yo is eating better than me.