Getting Started – Commit to Ten Minutes Today

getting started

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

- Mark Twain

Are you stuck in the research stage of minimalism? Reading blogs and books? Planning? Waiting for the perfect time? That ends today. Getting started is as easy as taking ten minutes for a small project.

Choose one of these quick activities or get started on your own list of ideas for simplifying.

1. Sign up to receive digital billing statements for one account.

2. Clean out your glove box.

3. Unsubscribe from a couple of email lists you’re no longer interested in.

4. List five things you’re grateful for.

5. Set up an area to collect unwanted items for donation.

6. Throw away expired items in your fridge.

7. Make a list of items from your freezer you should eat in the next week.

8. Meditate and/or pray.

9. Have each of your kids choose one item to donate.

10. Put the mystery cords in a bag and label it “unknown cords” with the date.

11. Write a thank-you note.

12. Look for three items in your closet to donate.

13. Clean off one cupboard shelf in the kitchen or bathroom.

14. Order a scanner.

15. Clean the trash out of your car.

16. Email or call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while.

17. Schedule a medical or dental appointment you’ve been putting off. Put the appointment in your calendar.

18. Sign up for a digital calendar (like Google Calendar).

19. Clean out the cabinet under your kitchen or bathroom sink.

20. Grab a pile of papers and scan or file for 10 minutes.

21. Get organized for tomorrow morning.

22. Take a short walk.

23. Delete emails you no longer need.

24. Set up a Craigslist account and post an ad for an item you’ve been wanting to sell.

25. Create a spot for things that need to leave the house like outgoing mail, library books ready for return and bags of stuff to donate.

Have you been putting off simplifying? If so, why?

Minimalists in History: The US in World War II

world war ii

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”

- World War II slogan

Although World War II brought prosperity to America, most Americans lived relatively simply due to rationing, supply shortages and a desire to help the war effort.

Conservation and Recycling in World War II

Government posters and pamphlets encouraged people to conserve everything from water, heating fuel and electricity to long-distance telephone calls and transportation.

During the war, patriotism required recycling metal, paper, rubber, rags, leftover cooking grease, and bones. In fact, a poster featuring a Japanese soldier read: “Honorable Spy Say: Thanks for the can you throw away.”

Rationing of gasoline and tires required Americans to carpool and drive more slowly, as well as to walk more.

Because sugar, butter, red meat, cheese, and processed foods were rationed, many people ate healthier diets as well.

Shoe rationing meant that people repaired their shoes as long as they could instead of buying a new pair.

Clothing was not itself rationed in the US, but manufacturers had to comply with fabric-saving mandates, resulting in simpler clothing (for example, fewer cuffs and ruffles).

The military had priority for wool and cotton fabrics, so people more often mended clothing to extend its life.

Gardening and Canning in World War II

During World War II, the government encouraged people to plant “victory gardens.” These vegetable gardens freed up farming, food-processing and transportation resources to produce and deliver more food for overseas soldiers.

Victory gardens appeared not just in private yards, but in public parks, schoolyards and vacant lots. By 1943, nearly 40 percent of the country’s fresh fruit and vegetables were grown in school, home and community gardens.

Canning preserved much of the resulting produce for eating in the winter. Many communities even had canning centers for those without their own canning equipment.

Unfortunately, after the war, patriotism began, once again, to mean consumerism instead of conservation and simple living.

Teaching Kids about Money – Example and Experience

teaching kids about money

“[T]he best time to begin teaching kids about money is when they are young, before they become preoccupied with digital devices and other distractions.”

- Geoff Williams

Teaching kids about money from a young age is important, whether you’re hoping they become billionaire CEOs or self-sufficient homesteaders.

Unfortunately, kids often tune us out or think we’re just plain wrong when we tell them what to do. Teaching kids about money is best done by setting a good example and by allowing them the freedom to make their own financial mistakes.

“Your example is everything when it comes to teaching your children about money.”

- Rachael Cruze

Some kids may pick up on the hows and whys of living frugally if you do so, but many will just decide their parents are “cheap.” It’s better to explain your financial decisions.

By this, I don’t mean sit the kids down once a year and talk to them about money. Instead, let them know why you’re buying the more expensive shoes or the generic can of tomatoes.

Don’t just say you don’t have enough money to buy everything the family wants. Explaining why you choose the way you do is important when teaching kids about money.

For example, you might say the more expensive shoes will last longer and provide better support. Perhaps you find the generic tomatoes taste just as good as the name brand.

When you choose not to subscribe to cable or pack lunches instead of eat out, explain what you do with the money you save. Maybe it pays for the family vacation or allows one or both parents to spend more time with the kids by working fewer hours.

Of course, this assumes you’re living frugally by choice. If you truly can’t afford to spend more, they should know that as well.

“How could youth better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

- Henry David Thoreau

Like many teens, my 15-year old loves video-gaming, and he wanted a gaming mouse. He carefully read reviews and narrowed his choices down to two, one of which cost about 50 percent more than the other.

He chose the cheaper one, explaining that it had good reviews and all the features he needed and that he’s learned that when he chooses the most expensive item without a really good reason, he tends to later regret it.

This observation adds to what he learned spending his money on cheap junk when he was younger. Now he knows not to automatically buy the cheapest or the most expensive item.

Had we not allowed him the freedom to make spending mistakes, he wouldn’t have learned these lessons. He’s first to admit he tends not to learn from others’ mistakes, but needs to make his own.

Even if your kid’s personality is different, odds are good the lesson learned the hard way will resonate in a way lessons learned from parental advice don’t. It’s far better to learn a lesson the hard way early on so you don’t miss a rent payment or ruin your credit.

“There’s a strong argument that an allowance is the best way to teach a child to handle financial responsibility. There’s an equally convincing case that nothing could be further from the truth.”

- CNN Money

Experts disagree on whether parents should give their kids allowances or have their kids do chores for spending money – or both. I suggest you read a few different books or websites on teaching kids about money and see which suggestions feel right for your family.

What are you doing to set a good financial example for your kids? Have your kids learned from their money mistakes? What do you feel are the most effective for teaching kids about money?


Minimalist Hobbies – Fun without a Lot of Stuff

minimalist hobbies

“Having too many hobbies can cost you unnecessary time and money. Figure out a small handful of core hobbies to focus on and discard the rest as active interests.”

-  Trent Hamm

As you sort through piles of craft materials, sports equipment and other fun-related items, you may start to think about substituting minimalist hobbies for your space-hogging interests.

I’ve found that for many people, hobby materials are one of the last decluttering holdouts, right up there with sentimental items. We often keep stuff for hobbies we’ve haven’t engaged in for years.

In some cases, we’ve invested a lot of money in the supplies and equipment and don’t want to lose the investment. Perhaps we just have too many hobbies, so we don’t have time for them all.

Other times, we hold on to unused items because of who we want to be. We want to be the kind of person who skis, scrapbooks or makes beer. Letting go of this stuff is also letting go of our dreams.

When you’re sorting through hobby materials and equipment, ask yourself why you’re keeping things you haven’t used in a year or more. Maybe you have a good reason – it didn’t snow, so you couldn’t snowshoe. Or your youngest child is about to grow into her sister’s old ski boots.

If you don’t have a good reason and you’re still having a hard time getting rid of the stuff, give yourself a deadline (no longer than a year) and calendar it. Commit to decluttering all items related to any hobby you haven’t engaged in by the deadline.

“My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.”

- Edith Sitwell

Are you looking for a new hobby that you don’t need a lot of stuff for? Luckily, even if you’re the type of minimalist who wants carry everything you own on your back, there are plenty of hobbies you can do.

  • Listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I can check out audiobooks from my library online – see if your library offers this service.
  • Have a pair of binoculars? Try birding, stargazing or butterfly watching. Many field guides are available online or in e-book format.
  • Photography requires only a camera – and if you have a smart phone with a good camera, you don’t need to buy a thing.
  • Learn a language online (one free site is Duolingo).
  • Make origami.
  • Obtain a pencil and an unlined notebook, and try your hand at sketching.
  • With a free Kindle app, it’s easy to read on your phone, tablet or laptop. Not only are many books (especially classics) free to download, you can check e-books out from the library as well.
  • Writing requires only your laptop or a notebook and pencil.
  • All you need for letterboxing will fit in a large pocket: a journal, a pencil, a rubber stamp and a stamp pad. Geocaching is similar, but you’ll need a GPS-enabled device instead of the stamping materials.
  • Learn to sing.
  • Depending on where you plan to hike, you may need nothing but a sturdy pair of boots and a water bottle.
  • Become a connoisseur of something consumable, like wine or craft beer.
  • Volunteer.
  • Do magic tricks.
  • If you’ve already got basic kitchen equipment, learn to bake bread or cuisines from different parts of the world.

If you have the space, consider productive hobbies. You’ll need to acquire some materials to get started, but you’ll also generate something usable when you’re done. These include gardening, sewing, beer making, canning and woodworking.

Do you need minimalist hobbies?

What if you truly need a lot of stuff for favorite hobbies? Don’t worry about it.

Stuff is not inherently bad. Problems arise from cluttering our lives with stuff we don’t need or want. If something improves your life, keep it without guilt.

“Hobbies are apt to run away with us, you know; it doesn’t do to be run away with. We must keep the reins.”

- George Eliot

Whatever hobbies you choose to keep or add, be mindful about purchases and think carefully about whether you can declutter some of the supplies or equipment you already have.

For instance, I may need several sizes of knitting needles, but I don’t need a closet full of yarn. (If you have too many craft supplies, check out my earlier post, Are You Buried in Craft Supplies?)

The same idea applies to digital items – if you’re done with an e-book and know you’ll never read it again, go ahead and delete it from your e-reader. The same is true for game apps.

What minimalist hobbies do you engage in? If you have hobbies that require lots of stuff, how do you keep materials from getting out of control?

Smaller Homes: Half the Space and Twice the Happiness

smaller homes

“It has been a liberating and good experience to get rid of all that stuff, and start living in a smaller space.”

- Morten Storgaard of Go Downsize

It’s been almost four weeks since we moved to a much smaller home. We left a house of about 2200 square feet on an acre and half of land and moved to an apartment, which is about 1000 square feet.

In another couple of months, we’ll be moving to a townhouse, which is a bit bigger (1250 square feet) and, while we’ve been looking forward to the townhouse all along, we were somewhat apprehensive about moving to the apartment.

My husband and I have been happily surprised to find that not only do we not feel cramped here, but we love living in this small space. In fact, we like it so much, we both feel motivated to move to a still-smaller home once we no longer need any kid-space.

“Less space gives us more of everything we value most.”

- Jen Smith of Millionaire Mommy Next Door

So what do we love about living in half the space?

1. Having a smaller place makes it easy to be mindful about purchases. The reality is, there’s nowhere to put a new item unless we get rid of an old one.

2. It’s also incredibly fast to clean a small space. Half the space, half the cleaning time.

3. Smaller homes cost less. Unfortunately, we’re not saving much yet, because having only a 3-month lease raised the monthly rent to nearly the cost of the mortgage on our house, but that will change when we move to the townhouse.

4. It costs less to heat (and cool) a small space. Our last electric bill was less than half of what it would have been in our house.

5. Smaller homes encourage family togetherness.

“What we need are not bigger homes that complicate our lives with debt and duty, burden and bondage, but smaller homes that coddle us, enrich us, give us sanctuary, emotional and spiritual comfort, and peace of mind.”

- Michael Walsh

I know that for some people, 1250 square feet – or even 1000 square feet – is downright huge. However, the average size of a new home in the US in 2013 was 2600 square feet, and we were used to 2200 in an area of mostly 3000 square foot homes, so it’s a big downsize for us.

We expected to miss our old space, at least at first, but neither of us has. At all. We both find that a tad bit odd, having expected at least a brief period of difficult transition while we got used to such a big cut in living and storage space.

Instead, we’re overjoyed. We look at each other with goofy grins and talk about how happy we are in a smaller home. We use much of the time we used to spend on home cleaning and maintenance for long walks together through the neighborhood and nearby parks.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

- Karen Lamb

Take some time to this weekend to consider whether you might be happier downsizing your living quarters, whether by moving or by renting out part of your current home. If you’re hesitant, try emptying a room – or even a closet – and see how comfortable you are without it.

Remember, there’s no rush to change. It took us a couple of years to move after we began thinking about it. This gave us time to plan as well as to slowly declutter half our stuff.

Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed. Remember, as Lao Tzu says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”