Feb 26 2011

the minimalist challenge update [day 275]

I have to say, I never thought I would call myself anything related to being a minimalist.  I was raised in a very materialistic home and placed a pretty high value on having stuff.   So what exactly is a minimalist?  Here’s the dictionary definition.



1.  a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program.
2.  a practitioner of minimalism in music or art.

3.  of, pertaining to, or characteristic of minimalism.
4.  being or offering no more than what is required or essential.

Every day, within my normal routine, I’m finding a lot of material possessions that I just don’t need, want or even use.  I have a basket set up as a staging area to get these things out of my house.  Not a day has gone by, within the last week, that I haven’t placed at least one thing in there.  I open the kitchen drawer and realize I have extra hot pads, I walk by a shelf wondering why I have a cluster of too many vases on it, do I really need that stack of books… you get the picture.  I like this new mentality.  It’s that same one that keeps me from buying impulse items, shopping for no reason and buying things just because it’s a good deal.

I suppose if I look at this, applying the definition, I din’t know how many people would say I’m striving to be a minimalist.  When you look at the part that says “required or essential”, does that mean for us to live or to live in our society?  My minimalism would be considered the latter of the two.  Clearly, I don’t need a car to live, I don’t need that cute art bowl on my table to live, nor do I need the most awesome hot tub in my back yard to live.  Comparing these items to our basic necessities of food, water and moderate shelter, it’s extravagant.  When compared to a middle class family, it’s the norm.

My house is considered small in the higher income, affluent city I live in.  I’ve thought about downsizing.  I even had a nightmare about it last night.  Worse yet, it’s a recurring one.  I bought a new, bigger house about 30 minutes north of where I live.  I got a good deal on it, so I bought it with the intention of selling my current house.  In this dream, I always forget I have the new house until the 1st mortgage payment invoice shows up.  I haven’t sold my house, I’ve lost the key to the new house and I’m not even sure exactly where the new house is.  I usually wake up from this nightmare in a panic, clenching my teeth, stressed out about something that never happened.

As Madonna says, we’re living in a material world, but I don’t want to be a material girl.

Aug 27 2010

is it really a challenge? [day 93]

I had to stop and ponder the question yesterday, “Is this really a challenge?”  There are times when it feels like one, but for the most part, it’s really not too challenging.  A challenge should make you feel like you’re missing out on something, shouldn’t it?  The purpose is being accomplished and the drive is there, but the difficulty is missing.

I suppose this could mean one of two things:

Not only do we not need a lot of stuff, but we if we don’t buy new things, we don’t miss them.

On rare occasions I like to shop.  At least it’s what I call shopping, or treasure hunting, because the only place I actually like to shop is yard sales, thrift stores and craigslist.  My friend calls shopping ‘retail therapy’.  Me?  I need therapy after shopping!

I also went into the challenge not really needing or wanting anything, which probably means I have too much stuff already.  The only thing I don’t need and really would like to purchase is welding equipment.  If I do purchase that in the future, rest assured it will be used equipment and will get a lot of use.  The garage is about 23% on it’s way to being an art studio.

I’m not challenging myself enough and I should step it up a notch.

What else should I do?  Somehow I need to find better ways to shop for food and toiletries.  Giving up, or modifying fast food purchases might be next on the list.  Any ideas?

Aug 25 2010

1/4 year into the challenge!! [day 91]

Where does the time go???  It’s been that long already?  Today I’ll just do a few updates on the challenge.

What have I learned?

Many good things, but mostly that there are good alternatives to a lot of the purchases I would have normally made without the challenge.  I borrowed tools and gardening equipment, things I would have normally purchased.  (Jeff and Thad, I don’t have the missing shop vac.  LOL)  I also seem to lend out more of my stuff to people that know I’m doing this, as they are rethinking purchases as well.

What’s the biggest change?

I would have to say impulse buys.  With the challenge, I’m not even inside too many stores, but before the challenge I would buy things I just didn’t need, or want for that matter.  I do this thing with my kids when they want something, I make them wait 24 hours, then if they still remember it and still want it, I will take them back and let them buy it.  (with their money)  I will do this myself too, even when the challenge is over.

Where there any surprises?

I’m constantly surprised by the number of people reading my blog and how they have changed some of their shopping habits.  I didn’t expect so many people to follow my progress, and some of them I don’t know very well.

I’m also surprised by the amount of money I’ve saved.  I must have spent a lot on junk I didn’t need!  I have no debt and I won’t even consider changing that.  I didn’t have a lot before the challenge, but I would justify making a purchase before I had the money for it.  I live more within my means now and have money to help others when I have the opportunity.

My house is easier to clean. I just don’t have as much stuff… well, the garage is not included in that area yet, but as soon as it’s not 150 degrees out there, I will be making it into an art studio.  I have taken loads of stuff to the resale shop, and I still have several more to go.

What happens after the challenge?

I get this question a lot.  Hopefully I will still keep many of the lifestyle changes I have made to do this challenge.  I plan to, as that’s the purpose.  I might buy something retail afte it’s over, but that won’t happen without looking for the item second hand or trying to make sure I really need it.

If you have a question about the challenge, post a comment here and I’ll answer.  Thanks for following the challenge!!!!!

Jun 29 2010

the challenge: day 33 [should you buy new, used or not at all?]

My friend Ryan sent me this list of things you should never buy new, which also has a link to things you should never buy used.  I agree with most of it.  I got burned two years ago on buying a used laptop for my kids.  Here are links to the lists:

Things you should never buy new.

Things you should never buy used.

Then I found another link that asked, “Are you ready to be extremely frugal?” I first thought about Jerod, because he’s the most frugal person I know besides myself.  If anyone were to rank me and Jerod, he would win on the frugal scale.  I found something interesting…

Stop buying stuff. This may not sound too extreme but it can be. Those who are part of The Compact vow to buy nothing new for a year. There are some exceptions such as food, medicine, and hygiene products but otherwise they buy nothing new for a year. If you want to try your own version of The Compact, you could try not buying anything new for a week or a month. You will save the money you would have spent buying the stuff plus they money you would have spent maintaining the stuff. While these frugal measures may be extreme, implementing them or the less extreme alternatives can save you a lot of money and help you keep your budget under control.

Ha!  Yep, already doing this.  And I joined The Compact group on Yahoo of people who are also doing this for a year.  They have over 10,000 people in the group!!!