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my minimalist manifesto


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While you read what I’m sharing today, I’d like you to ponder the following question: When is adequate enough? In other words, when is it okay just to be normal instead of the best at everything? When is it okay to have less than others, but enough for you?

Nate is still on his international work trip and will be for weeks to come. I am in awe of single parents now that I have been one for the past three weeks. The girls and I have fallen into a new rhythm, and our household is humming along happily; however, I will gladly break up the new routine to welcome the hubster back into the fold. I do wonder what he’ll think of the new me who doesn’t ever turn on the TV. Will I fall back into the old habit, or will we start a new pattern? Time will tell. Care to place bets? I’m looking forward to finding out what happens.

Because our clocks are six hours apart right now, he and I only get a chance to talk for a few minutes a day. I cherish those catching-up conversations, and when I miss a call from him, my reaction resembles a certain frustrated, taxidermied weasel (that picture just never gets old!). Luckily, I didn’t miss his call yesterday.

We had a great talk, and I’m eager to engage with you and find out if you’ve had some of the same feelings and experiences we discussed. Our conversation began with me admitting that I am prone at times to covet what others have; I especially do so with regard to what my close friends have that I don’t. Usually, my internal monologue goes like this…

“Why do they get to remodel their kitchen and we don’t?”
“How do they afford to go out to eat so often?”
“Why can’t I buy myself new riding boots like she has?”
 

Childish, no? I could see it as embarrassing to admit this little truth to you, friends, but the interesting thing is that I don’t see it that way any more. Opening up to you has been liberating, and I am learning to see you as close allies in my life journey. Most eye-opening to me is that by allowing myself to be vulnerable, I have actually strengthened my friendships instead of scaring people off.

My dialogue with Nate migrated to a recent epiphany I’ve had. Just owning to these negative feelings in itself has been helpful for me, but I have gone further in healing my jealous spirit. Recently, I’ve begun turning the table on my feelings of envy. When I feel it creeping up again, I begin to search actively in my mind for what I am grateful for having that those friends may not. I almost always come up with a nearly even list of positives in both our courts. What a relief! This newfound strength at taming the fire in my belly is a revelation for me.

It was at this point in my exchange with Nate when it occurred to me that simplifying my lifestyle has happened in stages. This realization is becoming something of a credo, and I think it could help others achieve a happier, simpler life. Ergo, we finally arrive at the guiding principle of my post, where I’ll share the stages of my minimalism so far:

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Stage 1: Shrug off the things that people say you must have in order to be happy. 

For me, this stage has been an ongoing process for years, beginning in my late teens when I rebelled against the idea of wearing make-up. Since then, I have come to view make-up as a fun, positive way to become a dressier version of myself for a few hours, whether that be to church or a night on the town. However, I still see the real me as that girl who eschews being made up.

More recently (and as many of you already know…), my shrugging off of unnecessary consumerism has been to cancel cable and to stop purchasing a variety of processed foods that are marketed to me zillions of times. For example, I no longer grocery shop with coupons. These experiences have been great and emboldened me to go further.

Stage 2: Learn to love and appreciate what I have.

Staying home with my children has allowed me to slow down my life in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was a new freshman in college, and which I probably won’t experience again until retirement. In one way, the deceleration of our lives was involuntarily due to switching to a single income; we no longer could afford to speed along at our frantic go, go, go pace. The slower pace is also made possible by my lack of work commute and responsibilities outside the home. As a result, I’ve been pondering what I’m thankful for at more opportunities than just at Thanksgiving.

Stage 3: Weigh the opportunity cost of each new purchase, i.e. make a conscious decision to forgo some items for others.

This is the newest stage I’ve encountered and is partly what brought the peace to my previously envious mind. One of our closest friends studied economics in college, and I can remember him explaining opportunity cost a decade ago. I suppose I stored that little nugget somewhere in the back of my mind; when I least expected, the nugget resurfaced to point out a more positive way to approach minimalism. Now I can appreciate that our friends might be able to afford a new kitchen, dining out, and riding boots because they have decided not to own cell phones, a SUV with a large monthly payment, and a gym membership. Seeing frugality as a conscious choice allows me to gain power and view the experience positively.

Thus far, I’ve been focusing on the broad scope, but it isn’t just my approach to life that is taking a minimalist turn. My parenting goals are also shifting toward the concept of less as a frame of mind and a powerful tool to allow my children the space to grow in a simpler, lower-stress environment. It’s my hope that by achieving less of what modern society tells me I need to do to raise Princeton-worthy children, I will gain happier children. And who knows? Maybe they’ll still go to Princeton. {Wink}

Resources for ‘Simple-Minded’ Parents:
(n.b.: I’ve seen the terminology described as “Simplicity” and “Minimalist,” but I kind of like my jokey title)

‘Simple-Minded’ Non-Parent? I’ve gotcha covered:

There are many other lists I could write, like my favorite real food and homesteading blogs, but since this is a post about minimalism, I’m keeping it simple. Having said that, I’d love to find out your favorite resources and tips for living a minimalist lifestyle. What did I miss?

See you back here soon. In the in between time, let’s keep in touch! You can “like” me on Facebook, follow my tweets and pins, and use a myriad of other social gadgetry to reach me.Photobucket

Cheers,
~J

Editor’s note: This post is a part of LHITS DIY Linky, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Frugal Friday, Fight Back FridayYour Green ResourceSimple Lives ThursdayWorks for Me WednesdayReal Food WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysJust Write, Natural Parenting Group’s Monday Blog Hop, the Homestead Barn HopMonday ManiaSunday School, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday

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