year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week One

Progress at this point is mostly mental. I am plotting and planning for the year, thinking about actions I can take and goals I’d like to hit.

  • I have already decided to get strict with my spending. No unnecessary purchases. Making notes about how long a tank of gas lasts and how many meals my grocery shopping can make. I want to be practical and purposeful with my spending while still enjoying life – I don’t want my focus to be money. But I don’t want to throw it away.
  • Grocery spending will also influence my meal planning, which I’m excited about. I love cooking (sometimes) and trying my own recipes, but I also plan to try some paleo recipes I’ve found to make changes with my health, along with the rest of my life.
  • I have been selling things online to try and generate some money while getting rid of things. I only sell things that will be worth it – how much I get in return for my time photographing and listing the item. I’ve donated a lot of things I could have sold, just because I wanted to get rid of the items NOW. I don’t regret that at all – I was happier to have the items gone than I would have been to have $10 or $20 bucks for it a week later. But I have stockpiled some things that are worth selling, and I have been working on that.
  • Laundry. I used to do laundry on Saturdays and Sundays for the whole family – 2 loads of clothes, a load of towels, and a load of sheets (alternating the queen bed sheets and the bunk bed sheets). Now I have maybe 2 loads a week – clothes and towels. But I need to think about when I do laundry. If it’s a nice day and there is laundry to be done, I should wash it and hang it out. Too often I forget about laundry until the last minute and have to do it in the dryer due to rain or it being late at night.
  • Utility bills are the worst part of trying to be frugal. I am all about kicking the thermostat up or down a notch or two to save money, and we adapt to it. With ceiling fans in every room now, I feel like we will be able to last much longer before turning on the A/C. At least one window in every room will open for fresh air, and the fans will keep us cool. The goal is to last until June 1st without A/C.
  • Watering the garden. Talk about utility bills… But my son bathes every other night… Can I save his bathwater? I’m trying to figure out a way besides scooping it up in buckets. I need to research this. Does anyone have a good way? I definitely want to use this water for the garden instead of letting it go to waste.

I know this year will take a lot of action, but I feel like it is based in thought. Thoughtfulness with spending, with chores, with cooking, with leftovers, with using all you have to the best of your abilities. Thinking about things before doing them makes me feel more certain about what I do, and it simplifies my life by eliminating a lot of stress and worry, so I feel like I’m on the right track.

money, shopping

Watch Your Spending

And by “Your”, I mean “MINE”.

The other day I got an email that my credit card bill was due soon. I didn’t think much of it because I have autopay set up for every bill I can – my memory has gotten bad lately, and I hate forgetting a bill and having to pay a penalty. That never used to happen to me, but it happened twice in the span of a few months, so autopay seemed safest.

For some reason, my credit card bill stuck in my head. I don’t check that account much so I figured I should, just to make sure my identity hadn’t been stolen.

When I logged in, it sure looked like my identity had been stolen! The total was way more than I thought it would be. I knew I hadn’t spent that much money! I started going through the charges and adding them up by hand.

They were all mine.

It was a huge wake up call. I’ve always been proud of not being a shopaholic, and not needing much money beyond basic bills every month. And yes, some bills were on this credit card, but not the big ones. Not the house payment or my kid’s preschool tuition. Which means my expenses every month were basically doubled.

I like reading numbers on financial blogs to get an idea of where the person is compared to me. But sharing my own numbers… oh god, that’s embarrassing! But ok… basically I was putting $1000-$1600 on my credit card every month. My house payment and my kid’s school is about $1100 every month.

My heart stopped just typing that out.

If you asked me how much I spent every month, outside of bills, I would have guessed about $600. So checking my statements over the past year was really humiliating.

I don’t think it’s just the act of using a credit card vs cash – seeing the money leave your hand, etc. I’ve used cards ever since I got a debit card to fill the gas tank of my parents’ car when I borrowed it as a teenager. I’ve managed my spending on cards before. Which kind of explains why this was such a shock to me.

I know things are different now. I have a kid. I have a house. I need more things than I did as a single woman living in an apartment. My husband was a shopaholic, and sometimes I got swept along and bought things on a whim. I think I’ve helped him change, and honestly – I don’t go shopping much on my own. So without him around, I probably won’t shop much, which means less impulse buying. Unless it’s food… yum.

Along with the Year of Living Minimally, I’m going to start really watching my finances. I’m used to having savings, and knowing I have enough money to cushion me, to let me splurge a little bit if I wanted. But that doesn’t matter now. I need my nest egg to make sure my son will always be cared for. I don’t want to put us in a bad situation we can’t climb out of, financially. I am going to write down what my bills will be each month. I am going to give myself a small cushion for things that come up – all of my immediate family’s birthdays are in May, my son’s is in June, July is prime vacation month, etc etc. I know things will come up and I will have to roll with the punches. But I am going to restrict myself and watch my spending and try to cut it in half – at least.

I am tired of feeling like I’m just throwing money away, so here I go!

home life, money, natural living, shopping, year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally

The A to Z Challenge brought me into contact with a lot of amazing people and interesting blogs. One of my favorites is Martha Reynolds Writes. I love reading about people changing their lives, and I loved interacting with her about different ideas relating to going green and minimalizing your life.

I was inspired by her project “The Year of Living Minimally” – so much that I’m doing it, too.

I’ve described my history in a nutshell, and have been documenting my actions of the past several months. I have been getting rid of a lot of unnecessary belongings. I have been trying to save money however I can. I have been trying to be more green with my purchases and my actions. I am changing my home life and my view of consumerism.

This project won’t go for just a year, especially considering it’s already started and I plan to live this way for the rest of my life. I just want to hold myself accountable and actually document the changes I’ve made. I only wish I had pictures of how cluttered my house used to be… But this is still a great starting point.

I’ll check in every Monday summarizing what happened the week before!

writing

That was fun!

I actually loved posting every day. It was a challenge because I haven’t blogged in so long. I let my book blog, How I Feel About Books, lapse with a post a month, on average. Since launching my photography business, I’ve posted on Allison and Her Camera, but not regularly. This challenge has pushed me to get back to my blogging roots (because of course those need to be rediscovered?) and I want to stay in the practice of writing often.

I am going to post here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Mondays will be a recap of the week before, for my Year of Living Minimally. Wednesdays and Fridays will just be whatever comes to mind. Green, lifestyle, money – all of it!

I’ve loved connecting with so many different bloggers, and hope to keep up with you all, and hope you stick around for my journey and share your experience.

home life, natural living, school, working

Zero Waste

I mentioned the Zero Waste Home on my Inspiration link up, but only wrote a blip about the site. When I discovered it back in 2010, it really affected my thinking and my lifestyle. I was really into blogs back then, following friends and personal blogs and lifestyle blogs, and I even followed some fashion bloggers, believe it or not! These were more alternative bloggers who bought from thrift stores or had capsule wardrobes or did 30 day challenges… Attainable fashion, basically. Even those sold out, though some have come back pretty level-headed. But I digress.

The Zero Waste Home made me conscious of what I used and how I disposed of it. Since then, I have noticed how much trash I bring home from the grocery store in terms of packaging. And how much paper schools waste with busy work or “art” just to have something to show, to keep the kids busy, or to hit numbers and create “meaningful” data. It’s all pretty disgusting, but it’s hard to keep it away.

I wrote about Valentine’s cards and how I thought they were wasteful, but what can you do? Everything about consumerism and waste is so mainstream, so ingrained in everything, that it’s hard to break free. I sometimes still feel societal pressure about things as an adult, so I certainly don’t want my son to feel uncomfortable or mocked because his mom hates recycling the art papers that are sent home with him, or anything along those lines.

Going Zero Waste within the home is easy enough – we are keeping track of our trash vs our recycling and seeing how much we get rid of each week. We are trying to cut down on what we bring in in the first place. And I think it’s important to speak up and tell others we don’t want what they are offering us, like a free plastic toothbrush at the dentist when we buy our own compostable toothbrushes. But in a setting like school, or the workplace, things get a bit harder.

Do you have this problem with your workplace or at your kids’ school? How do you work around it? Are you vocal and just hope your kids go with it? Do you consider working at home and/or homeschooling your kids as an alternative?

Let’s get deep on the last letter of the alphabet, hm?

food, home life, natural living

Yeast

Both of my grandmothers used to make sourdough bread every week. One would make crusty loaves, and one made tray after tray of rolls to take to all of her social functions. My mom would occasionally borrow a cup of the starter to make loaves and rolls for our family. Sometimes she even made homemade cinnamon rolls – yum!

When I was in my 20s, soon after I bought my house, I decided I wanted to make bread, too. It seemed so domestic, but also I loved the taste of the bread so I wanted to have the power of making it for myself! I made the starter based on my grandmother’s instructions, and fed it every week, and made bread every week. At the time I had a great job and my coworkers were all like family, so I would make bread for myself, then take all the rest to them. They loved the rolls and would often ask when I would be making the next batch.

I stopped not long after I met my husband, because it was a lot to keep up with, and I wasn’t eating the bread anymore. I love making bread for others and making them happy through food, but it was too much effort. Not long after that I had a tough pregnancy and then had a kid, so making bread hasn’t really happened since then.

My husband found a recipe for ice cream bread and made that once, but it was too dense and dry for me. Lately I’ve found myself craving the fluffy, moist, crusty sourdough I used to make. I want the habit of feeding and making bread again, too, but I also know I can’t really take on a new “chore” with everything going on right now. I might have to find a different recipe, a bread I can make once a month instead of having to maintain weekly.

Do you have a favorite bread recipe?

home life, natural living

X

X… is this always the hardest letter? I know there are words that start with X that you can pull out in Scrabble or toss into an academic paper to blow your professor away (or convince them that you are using a thesaurus…), but X words to base a blog post around?

All I can think of is X marks the spot. Buried treasure? Maybe. Someday. Eventually. Right now, it’s just an X over the round little area where we planted our first garden.

ximage