Spend Significantly Less

What do you spend your money on besides food, clothing, shelter, utilities, tithing (if you belong to a congregation of faith), and other necessary personal or household items?

We each have our own ideals and principles for what we cannot, and should not, do without. For many it’s an education to make life better and to do something they love. For some it is travel, a substantial savings, a business, dance or music lessons, or sports for their kids, a homestead, or serious hobby… whatever it is, only you can determine the importance of it in your life and no one else should attempt to do so.

But aside from those things, What else are you sinking your hard-earned cash into? I can think of too many things I spend more than I should on, and I even consider myself to be quite frugal compared to most. I don’t need to have the latest or greatest of anything, and I like what I own to do double duty if possible. I don’t consider myself fashionable. I like sporty or classic styles, I don’t get manicures, or pay for expensive hair styles, treatments or coloring, and I genuinely enjoy the hunt of shopping second hand.

My home is not fancy, in fact it really is pretty simple, despite the fact that there is still much to declutter.

So, I have to ask myself, where does my money go and how does my house keep filling up?

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A frivolous purchase?

I don’t like to think about spending, saving, or money in general. I definitely don’t really want to write about it. But this I know, my home will never be decluttered without addressing it. Why? Because there are always purchases that can be avoided if I make myself fully aware of my spending habits. So what do I spend on that I could focus on changing?  Various things – from the occasional iced mocha, impulse purchases when I’ve had a rough week and feel that I “deserve it,” to fast food in a pinch (too often, I’m afraid), and fun treats from online shopping.

Most of the time I really do have a plan for my purchases, however, and I get better at spending less every day. Especially when all that I have given to charity, recycled, shared with a friend, or thrown into the trash is fresh on my mind! Not to mention the things I’ve unearthed that I’d forgotten I had or just couldn’t find.

Throughout my life I have learned to get by, and be content with, whatever financial season I find myself in. Money truly is not everything.

Actually shopping, for me, is often like decluttering. (Say again?) Yes. Like decluttering. I look at an object and I subconsciously ask myself similar questions as I do when I am purging my closet, garage, or any room in my house. Do I really need this? Will it bring me closer to my goal? Do I have another one like it, or something that can be used in its place? How often would I actually use it? Can I borrow one instead?

And one final thought… I find that with most things, planning ahead is paramount. If I know what I am going into a store for, and stick with just those items, I will save money. If I know I need something and I plan to borrow, I save money. And if I ask myself key questions when I find that I am contemplating a purchase, I will ultimately save money as well.

So, S – Spend Less.

1. What do you spend your money on?

2. What are your spending priorities?

3. What are some unnecessary purchases you know you could cut out?

4. Do you ask yourself questions,  not only when you purge, but when you purchase?

5. How can you plan ahead so you don’t splurge?

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“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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What Don’t We Need In Order To Simplify?

Today I have taken some time to determine what simplifying our lives is all about. While I am in the throes of minimizing possessions in our home, scaling back my wardrobe, and creating a clearer space at the office, there are many other areas where simplifying is just as important in order to begin leading a more balanced life. It’s not solely about our possessions.

Over the next several weeks I will focus on the below areas one at a time and begin to unpack what each one can mean to you and your family as you consider a simpler lifestyle.  So, you may want to keep a journal, notes on your smartphone, a tablet, or however you like to record things for future reference… or not! No homework here, just a place to jot down your personal thoughts and ideas as you consider where you are at in your own life and where you want to be.

S – Spend less.

I – Identify your priorities.

M – Minimize possessions.

P – Plan ahead.

L – Let go.

E – Everything with a place.

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“There was not enough land to support them both because of all the livestock and possessions they had acquired.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭36:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Blank Slate

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The simple joy of an autumn morning in Pennsylvania.

There’s nothing quite so simple as a clean slate. A blank page staring back at me, waiting to be filled with something worthwhile. Something that may inspire someone, give new perspective, or maybe validate someone else’s efforts to live a more minimal lifestyle. But the words don’t come.

I sit and ponder the very idea of why minimalism is so important in my life. What has led me down this path of simplicity, spurring me on to be the best me I can be?

First, I think it is something inherent in me. Not from my mom and dad, or in the way I was raised, but many other things that have come together to mold me into the person that I am. I like to think that in my ancestry maybe somebody somewhere led a joyous life and thrived without a lot of baggage or stuff. Perhaps someone who lived in a small wooded cabin, Irish cottage, or even a humble prairie Soddy. Getting by with only those items they needed to survive and provide for their family. That’s all I really want. Joy in the little things. Life in the people I love. To be humble. More compassionate. Tied less to objects and desires, and impressions, and more to experiences, contentment in the blessings I’ve been given, and the carefree peace and attitude that comes with a greater confidence in who I am.

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The shadow of autumn perrenials on my dew-covered car window. The simple joy of our surroundings when noticed.

There’s our culture. The Western World is so driven. So many other nations, and I’m not even talking third world countries here, know how to live with less, take pride in, and great care of, the few useful, worthwhile items they possess. They know how to slow down, socialize and rest.

Not the least of reasons is our own culture. The Western World is so driven, by work, attaining more, and the stressful lives we lead. We watch shows on television depicting real people that can’t let go of their stuff. Even to the point of saving actual trash that they eventually have to climb over to get from place to place inside of their home. Folks that must compulsively buy, everywhere they stop, to fill some void. Or regularly wrack themselves with envy over what their neighbor has, fearing how others will judge them if they do not “measure up” to some high standard in their own minds, which leaves them living in a state of depression and bitterness over what they don’t have instead of simple enjoyment in what they do possess.

I don’t want this struggle to be mine, or my family’s. I want our evenings to stop being about exhaustion, lethargy, and guilt about the things around us that aren’t getting done. And our weekends to stop being about anything but rest and family time. Because we’ve got to cram so much upkeep into such a short amount of time, we are missing out on life as it rapidly passes us by. And we’re not the only ones.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭TLV‬‬

 

 

The Joy of A Simple Saturday

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One week has passed since I completed my 5 Day Purge.  Many things are still awaiting our attention, and will be. Nothing is final. But there is definite movement to keep things going in a positive direction.  I made a list of some smaller, or ongoing projects that I can jump in and complete when time allows and I know the declutter must go on. But I am not writing to tell about those areas of my life. Instead, I wanted to share the relaxed pace of our Saturday. A lot is being accomplished, but it is not at the crazy hurried pace that it usually is. I think having fewer items around us, and keeping some clear and usable spaces in our small home this week, has made a notable difference.

For instance, leading up to today, I stayed on top of my planning, created meals that would work for our family, exercised more, got more rest, drank more water, and ate less (and much more healthy) than I had been. I moved about and completed tasks at a more deliberate pace and enjoyed my family, loved ones and friends each day. A welcome change of pace in my uber busy life.

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I slept slightly later than I normally do this morning, and as I woke, stretched and listened to the birds singing joyfully. With a smile on my face my feet hit the floor and I peeked out the window to see if our visiting doe was grazing under the apple tree. Then I tossed on some walking gear, harnessed the dog, and took her out for an early morning walk while it was still cool.

Afterward, while enjoying my morning coffee, I read my dovotion and wrote in my prayer journal. Then joined my hubby in the kitchen and made myself a duck egg, toast from a crusty loaf of bread with a bit of local apple butter, and poured another hot cup to enjoy at the table with him. (The same table we played two of those unearthed games at the night before – and as a family, decided to keep one and ditch the other!)

Once I cleaned up the kitchen a bit, and hubby and I had enjoyed a productive discussion about a wonderful, large window we’re going to add to our dining room (I’m all about letting in as much sunlight as possible and bringing the outdoors in!) I made my way out to my perennial gardens to trim roses and remove the dead plants for fall. (Will probably need to get back in there to winterize before November.)

As I trudged my way down over A8D117F3-EA3B-49B1-A737-351635D68B63the hill to unload my wheelbarrow, I once again noticed black walnuts dropping from the tree. So I decided to grab a couple of small buckets to go back down and gather them. I recently discovered it this summer growing amongst the other trees and was pleasantly surprised to be able to try our hands at drying tree nuts.

If you have never seen a black walnut in it’s most natural form, they almost look like small green oranges and have a pleasant, surprisingly citrusy, smell. I would have saved some photos of them, and the process we followed, but my husband was already into them by the time I came back up over the hillside. (Maybe next year!) So, for now, the walnuts are spread out over a table drying in the sun and breezy wind.

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A fire has been burning out back all afternoon with plans of stoking it to roast a few hot dogs with neighbors tonight, to enjoy a little friendly chatter and catching up.

So will end my day. A day full of margin. Patience, fun, trying new things, getting something done, working hard, planning, and best of all – joy!

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“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Day 5: Finding Satisfaction In The Process

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Day 5 has come to a close and I made it! I can relax and no longer spend every moment decluttering or thinking about what to do next. And yet, I know that this is just the beginning. Just a scratching of the surface that goes so much deeper to create the life of simplicity I long for – for both me and my family. I believe there is a fire behind this newly gained momentum that will fuel a relentless pursuit in me.

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Some may wonder why I didn’t share more before and after photos, or step by step how-to’s.  I believe that everyone has to find the formula that works best for them. The simple question that I ask myself, whenever the letting go of an item proves hard is this: Does this item help me to move forward in my vision of a more simplified life? Most often than not, that answer is no.

But we each have our own reason for downsizing, letting go, simplifying, or whatever you want to call it. Mine is a process that will play out over time. Maybe when I’m a famous blogger I will share more before and after photos with you. Lol! But for now, I think I’ll sit back and bask in what I know has been accomplished in these last 120 hours. And it has been enough to give me a taste of what it could be like should everything have a place, and everything be in its place.

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“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Day 4: Praying For A Second Wind

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The purge is nearing completion. Or is it? I am teetering a fine line. Much has been done. Much is yet to be done. I am running out of steam. Instead of gaining momentum and things getting easier as I see progress, I am really getting down to the nitty gritty of harder decisions. The more difficult efforts that are the way they are, because I avoid them at all costs, in the first place. It was definitely harder to keep focused over a weekend while my family was home. Even though they graciously did everything possible to allow me to carry on with my mission, and in fact left the house several times which gave me quiet, peaceful moments to contemplate my next move, I still found myself with many more distractions.

But, instead of giving up when I felt myself becoming stuck in an area and standing around wondering where to go next, I stopped. Moved onto something else for a while that was fresh, and returned to the original task later on with a clearer perspective. This usually helped me to keep it moving.

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My little reward for me has been enjoying some spicy fall oils in my aromatherapy diffuser. Today it is a few drops each of vanilla, sweet orange, cinnamon and nutmeg. Ahh! Smells wonderful and gives me comfort and energy to continue!

And, for now, the basement has a good start. My sister stopped for awhile and brought me some yummy dark chocolate pumpkins as a treat and told me how great my house looks. That was encouraging (thanks sis!) I guess maybe it does look a bit lighter and more spacious to someone who’s not in the throes of it. For me, I see all that still needs done, and the dirt and pet hair I am not bothering with in the midst of my decluttering efforts! But, that will all be taken care of in its own time. For now, letting go continues to be the most important part.

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“…Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 3: In It For The Long Haul

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Day three has been long and tiring with many distractions and not much satisfaction. I began in the basement with my first area of focus being the drawers under the stairs. (Sounds creepy enough for this time of year, no?) It was scary!  I pulled everything out (there are about 15 full-sized drawers). Mostly bakeware, tablecloths, dish towels and aprons, kitchen gadgets and utensils, my special tea things, board games, candles and vases, lunch gear and Bento boxes.  Yes, it was a lot. So, needless to say, things must get worse before they get better!

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Decisions became harder to make today for some reason, and I felt distracted, a bit frustrated, and more than a little disillusioned.

I asked for some help from my hubby, who offered suggestions and aided in making decisions, where I was undecided or felt like I just didn’t know. He had some great input, and we made some worthwhile compromises. For instance – we have a lot of family games and discovered that we each share the goal of getting back to enjoying them with family and friends. Several of them are classics (ahem, some might go as far as to say “vintage”). Many we love, or used to really enjoy at another time in our lives, but I didn’t want to keep them all ‘just because’ they are old-timey games that are hard to find these days. So, hubby said, “ How about we don’t get rid of any game unless we play it first and then decide?” Well , alright! Sounds like the funnest way to declutter to me! I’m all for that idea.

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Another thing to work in my favor this afternoon was a sweet friend letting me know that our local high school was (conveniently:) hosting a booster. They were being paid by the pound for whatever gently used items they could load onto the back of a tractor-trailer. So, I finished hoisting as many overflowing bags and boxes of items as I could get, into my small SUV, from the past few days. Then made my way over to support our local Mustangs after first stopping to drop off the bags of clothes to assist our brave veterans.

It was quite a productive day despite my feelings of overwhelm. Not a thing is truly done, and there is still a whole basement to tackle beyond the bank of drawers below the stairs, and I will admit to decluttering only. There is no organizing going on at this time. In fact, I am well aware that I will go back again and do a last purge of everything once I have had time to step back and think more clearly. And then I will begin to organize. That will be another chapter altogether.

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Day 2: The Five Day Purge Continuation

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Day two was a bit of a slower pace, but constant. I wasn’t quite sure where to start, there is so much to do and I want it all done now! I know that’s not possible. As they say – your house didn’t get this messy overnight and it’s not going to be clean overnight either. So, I carried on at a turtle’s pace.

It was good. I got much of the kitchen and living room done today as well as tossing all expired items from the bathroom cabinets. My accomplishments are definitely more visible today (in our well-used living spaces) than behind closed doors, in the yet unfinished office. So, I will share some photos here:

No amazing revelations or finds this time, but our girl has a friend staying the night after a school dance. They rode the bus home together and we all ate pizza and appetizers (at the dining room table once again) and enjoyed one another’s company. I will admit to feeling a little bit of pride at the much clearer space to welcome a guest into. Can I just insert here how amazed I am by people who live and thrive in tiny spaces!? Please let me know if you live in a tiny house.

So, my next step is much larger. The basement. Eager to get in there! We have been wanting to finish it for a long time and expand our usable living area. However, each time I complete a huge effort downstairs, it fills back up again because the upstairs overflows, and more stuff continues to come in. Why? Because try as I might I must admit to not always being a good steward of the things we have. It’s time to let go and clear out those things that we truly do not need. To stop more excess of stuff from entering in so we can enjoy more excess of life.

A more conscious effort must be made. Is it time for me to start my own challenge of not making any unnecessary purchases for a specified amount of time? I am enthralled by reading of folks that have managed to go an entire year without making a single purchase. Hmm… may be something to consider, on an experimentally smaller scale, following the completion of my 5 Day Purge.

I am ready to begin again.

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