Ideals are not so Ideal

I used to be a person of ideals. In all honesty, I still am most of the time. Ideally I like things to be a certain way and I like to gain an understanding for them so I can prepare myself efficiently so as to avoid as many inconveniences as possible. I’ll tell you how well that one works. It doesn’t.

When I first discovered I was pregnant I was so hyped about what baby gear I would need, types of parenting, and how my baby was or wasn’t going to be. I thought I was better prepared than most moms and confidently awaited this new person who was to accompany me in my life journeys. You see, ideally, raising a baby would be an easy thing. I had no other agendas in my life, I had rid myself of my conscious fears, and the whole attachment parenting thing made sense to me. People who had sour babies, in my mind, were sour parents. Probably ones that didn’t give their child enough comfort or who were to busy feeling like their child was an inconvenient obligation. After my first child I thought I could better prepare for the second and have this one be different. The truth is, no matter how much we attempt to prepare we cannot prepare enough for life’s inconveniences. If we were actually prepared it wouldn’t be an inconvenience.

So there are three life lessons I learned in the experience of two (call them what you will) high needs, colicky, fussy babies…

1. Prepare to be unprepared.

2. Get off my damn high horse and don’t judge.

3. Ideals are not so ideal.

It’s Hard to Let Go

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One of the premises that led me to minimalism was the amount of time and money I could have saved not hoarding to begin with. The hardest thing for me to part with is the wasted potential in the time and money spent on the items. I spent how much on all these items? Was it worth the cost? Did it add value to my life?

It’s a perceptional shift to see that holding onto things takes up more time and money. I used to spend a lot of time addressing what stuff to keep, how much can I sell it for, do I really need it? But then I look at just the stress it causes and even more time it takes, I’m likely to be more efficient just tossing it all out and starting over. ┬áBecause 99% of the items we own we don’t need.

In my experience, my time has been spent on stuff in these ways:

1. Organizing my garage one week during each summer.
2. Hosting an annual garage sale after that week of organizing.
3. Cleaning and dusting and replacing all the my items in my house.
4. Being distracted by color coordinating my closet, looking back at my old memory box, or flipping through the tv channels.
5. Paying bills (which takes up a lot of time when you have a lot of bills to pay).
6. Shopping, researching the best items to buy, making a list, deciding what to buy, what to put on a wish list, when to buy it.
7. Working – for more money, to buy more stuff, to pay for bigger space to keep all my stuff.
Just to name a few…

People ask us, all the time, Why we don’t have stuff? Is it because were poor? Firstly, when you think about it, what a funny perception for society to think we must be poor when we aren’t overwhelmed by stuff. And secondly, we feel we are extremely rich…

Rich in experiences, opportunity, time, connectivity, love, inspiration, gratitude, and abundance. Why? Because when we recognize the things that truly matter, usually things that don’t die out with this world and this life, we realize that we don’t need to accumulate more stuff to compensate for the potential lack we’re feeling. We have more time, less stress and more resources to do whatever we want since we aren’t chasing the “American Dream”.

So how do you start letting go?
Start with something small. Get rid of one thing, like that box of who-knows-what that you haven’t opened in years. Don’t bother opening it, just kiss it goodbye and see how good it feels. Watch how your ego challenges your mind to worry about what was inside it. Was it important? More importantly, did it add value to your life each day sitting there collecting dust in storage?

Why is it so hard for you to let go?

Stay Minimum When Expecting

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Having kids can be hard. It’s so easy to accumulate more than we need from gifts, to parenting tools, and cute excessive items. In my experience, it is much easier to focus on enjoying raising our children when there is less clutter.

Here are a few tips we used to help us keep the stuff to a minimum when we were expecting:

1. Make a registry and be picky about your items – Many people put anything and everything on their registry. I ask people to stick to the registry and do not bring clothes (people still will, but it keeps the excess down).

2. Buy used – babies outgrow their cloths and utility items (swings, bouncers, etc.) so fast. And because of the tremendous amount of people who buy new, it’s easy to find nearly new items for cheap on Craigslist or a local kids used items shop, like Once Upon a Child or Kid to Kid. I find that paying less makes it easier for me to let go of the item in the future or resell it for a fair price.

3. Limit toys, focus on interactive experience – both our kids fit all their toys and books into a backpack, with the exception of bicycles and chalk. Kids will make anything a toy, so Love typically has fun with rocks, sticks, washcloths, brown paper bags, etc. She prefers to be played with. It gets us all to spend quality time with one another. When you involve your kids in everything; be it sweeping, washing dishes, folding clothes… everything becomes a game and you’re able to get stuff done together. Sometimes much slower than usual ­čÖé but I find more efficiently that trying to distract the kids and make time for them later.

4. Keep tabs on accumulation, learn to let go – I clean out all the excess only to find more excess six months down the road. With kids, you cant force people to stop giving, it’s a joy to them. Be specific about what you need if they ask. If not, assess whether the item is a necessity to you and your family.
Note:┬áNot if you “can make use of it”… Anyone can make use of anything, but does the item add value to you or your children? If it’s a new toy, what toy can you replace it with? Often people send us so many clothes after the baby is born, too many to use, I re-gift them to friends who are pregnant or have kids, I throw them up for FREE on craigslist, donate or sell to a used kids shop.

The struggle I’ve experienced with letting go is guilt and fear. Guilt for all the money I spent and feeling the stuff didn’t get their money’s worth of use and fear that I won’t be able to afford it later down the road should I find myself wanting it again. Truth is, when I am not excessive, the small amount I own gets used and I feel good about having paid for it and having value added to my life because of it. And 99% of the time I really don’t need to repurchase stuff again. When I do I can always buy used.

My rule of thumb is: If it doesn’t add value to me or my family, it drags us down.

Minimizing Smartphones

It is easy to struggle with smart phones and electronic devices taking up much of our free time.
I tend to get carried away with having the world at my finger tips! Games, social media, videos, surfing the web… IMG_4053At the end of the day, I don’t get rid of my smartphone because it is a tool that greatly adds value to my life.

Here are a few ways I reduce wasteful time on my device:

1. I turn all notifications off. Including sound, vibration, badges, banners, etc. It is rare that I must turn the ringer on for an important call. This allows me the free space to respond on my own time without feeling haggled every time my  phone makes a peep or lights up with some alert.

2. I limit the apps on my devices. Just as I consciously limit the excess in my physical belongings, I remember to limit the excess in ALL areas of my life… Including applications. I do have 2 games on my phone: candy crush & hay day, both of which I don’t spend more than 5-10 minutes on daily. I feel solving puzzles exercises my mind on candy crush, however hay day is a complete waste of time and am coming to terms with deleting it altogether.

3. I only check emails, messages, notifications, social media at set times throughout the day. I used to get bored and pick up my phone. Now if I feel that notion, I do something else. Something that adds value to myself or family; like meditating, housework, reading, or yoga.

These few practices significantly reduce my time and attachment to my phone. The biggest thing for me comes from the value I put into things relative to my phone, for example: if I put effort into posting a picture of something ego centered on Facebook, I’m more likely to feel the notion of wanting to check comments and responses to the photo. The phone makes it easy for me to become absorbed with these things.

However, once I became deliberate when using my phone and let go of it as a crutch to fill up “empty time” I found things more valuable, like quiet space for myself, focused time with my kids, a friendly conversation with the person standing in line, etc. The notion then disappears and I find value in the tool my smartphone has become for me.

Journey to Minimalism

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You all have heard me talk frequently of minimizing my stuff and keeping the acquisition of new stuff to a minimum. And most of you probably know that this approach relieves me with the stress of having to move it all or concerning myself with where to store it when we travel.

The truth is, those perks are just the icing on the cake. What led me to minimalism was the state of having it all materialistically, but being completely unhappy.

I was 19 years old when I quit college and went on to pursue bigger, better things in life. The idea of a young entrepreneur set to heart and by the time I was 21 I owned my own business as a fitness advisor with hired personal trainers, and making an average of $100 an hour. It was “the good life”.

I lived in a resort style apartment complex and spent most of my time and money keeping up with the joneses. I threw raging parties, hosted fancy dinners, and frequented Vegas and Palm Springs. If there was anyone you’d like to be friends with, it would be me.

Long story short, a series of events had me broken down, lonely, confused about who I was and what my purpose was in life. I asked, daily, for truth and to find a way to happiness. I clearly recall these words falling from my lips, “I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care how hard it is. I want to love myself and my life.┬áI just want to be happy.”

Around the time I met my husband, I resisted the answer life had given to my request. Through much confusion, challenging moments, trial and error, I have found peace. Peace in knowing that I can be happy whenever I so choose and that my happiness is no longer based on the conditional circumstances of life.

After discovering tools and perspectives that led me to a life I love living, I look around and see a life I never could have foreseen. In fact, I see a life that would have me utterly convinced I’d be unhappy living.

I don’t own a new car or live in a resort-style complex. I no longer wear designer clothing, stylish make up, or expensive jewelry. I don’t throw parties, drink for social entertainment, or receive fancy gifts on holidays. I no longer eat out at nice restaurants, own fifty pairs of shoes, or decorate my home with lavish furniture and decor.

To my pleasant surprise however, I am no longer unhappy.

Happiness is actually quite simple and thus it makes sense that minimalism, the act of removing excess from one’s life, has simplified my experience enough to make room for happiness.