My son came down with an ear and sinus infection over the holiday weekend, so today was his sick day. He is a happy, rambunctious child most days; but when the stuffy head and fever had him stuck on the couch, the entire house slowed down.
In my sales-manager career Past Life, I would have been on the phone, checking emails, calling for sales updates, and conference calls- if I had the luxury of staying home with him at all.
Today, everything was different. My new title is SHM, as the internet has labeled me- Stay at Home Mom.
Time moved at a snail pace. While he rested, I quietly did chores- remembering my own sick days as a child, and my mother working silently in the next room so I could rest.
I took the time to steam clean the kitchen floor. It’s a slow process, if you’ve ever tried it. By design, to really clean with the unit you must take your time as the steam hisses out the pad onto the floor. It’s meditative, the heat radiating from the tile as I walk back and forth listening to the steam do its work. The only other sound in the home, my son’s stuffy snore from the couch.
I once thought the only joy was in a career with a prize at the top of the corporate ladder- either the paycheck, or the title, or some combination of both. My new “job” is making this house a home for my husband and children. No accolades from the boss. No sales awards to hang on the wall. Just a clean floor, and dishes, and the laundry folded before it’s put away.
My award is the happy smile from my little one telling me it was his best sick day ever.
Tradition says I should post on Facebook and all of social media the things I am thankful that I have. I was restless last night when I should have been sleeping, and instead thought of my list of things I am thankful I no longer have.
I no longer have a household full of screaming matches, and thrown objects, and drunken threats.
I don’t have a sense of dread opening the door to my home worried about what I am going to face when I get inside.
I don’t have the stench of cheap wine making my stomach turn.
I don’t have the bruises anymore.
If life is not what you want it to be, as frightening is to stay where you are, and it will be more frightening to leave- But when you do, the sense of peace you will finally have, there is no wealth on Earth that money can buy.
So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all the Blessings I do have- and even more for the Blessing of the all of the things I do not.
I have been trying to ‘collect’ (and yes, I know, runs against my Minimalism)- blogs that are about Minimalist lifestyles. Facebook has some amazing groups on Minimalism, but I haven’t been able to keep track of people’s blogs. Worse, many groups are not ‘self-promoting’ friendly, so a writer’s work is lost in the shuffle of the timeline.
If you would like to join a group that is supportive of promoting your blog; or are just interested in finding other blogs easily, find our group on Facebook “Minimalist Blogs”.
I was decorating with some handmade coffee cups and was reminded of a lesson I learned while making them. I had spent the summer at an art camp in Erie Pennsylvania, and was a little bitter that instead of getting to paint all day, my concentration was ceramics.
Part of this was that I wasn’t good at it- anyone who has tried to center clay on a potter’s wheel can attest that it is a hard learned skill. I have a habit of giving up on tasks that I can’t master in the first or second try; and this class tested my patience at all levels. There are more steps to creating a simple vase than one can image- You must spend time kneading all the air bubbles out of your lump of clay. Then after arm numbing kneading, you attempt to throw the lump of clay at a spinning wheel, aiming for as close to center as possible and with enough force that you ensure there is no air pocket separating that clay from the metal, wet wheel.
Back to the grind, you then use your upper body strength to force the clay down and in on itself; one move the wrong way, and the clay may fly off the wheel, or go off center, and your clay needs to be removed, re-kneaded, and thrown again.
Back at the wheel, if you are successful, and have “pulled” the clay upwards in a semblance of a vase shape, there is the cleaning of the excess clay, and removing the spinning vase from the wheel by using a steel wire.
That’s just the throwing. That’s nothing of the hours of drying; ‘firing’ in the kiln; glazing; re-firing; praying- and maybe, just maybe, that lump of clay has become a fine piece of art. The process, start to finish, can take days- sometimes weeks depending on the drying times involved.
After all that- My Professor then had us smash the pieces.
I fail to find the words to fully express the sickening feeling of watching my own work destroyed beneath a hammer swung by my own hand. The hours, the frustration of the process, the joy at seeing the work finally finished- gone- back to the dust that it had come from originally.
What did I learn? Don’t be afraid to lose everything you work for. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t get too attached to material things- they can all be lost in a moment, and you will need to be able to move on. There is always more art to be made in this life.
I have only been a Stay at Home Mother full time for 4 full months. Going into it, I was sure my management background would translate well into my new gig- I had been a manager at various levels for the past few years; some of those skills would have to come in handy now.
One of the questions my former coworkers and my friends ask is “What is life like outside the corporate world?’ Thank the upper management teams you work with, because out here, folks, you’re on your own–
There is no longer an HR department to work with. When my 5 year old says he won’t do a specific asked task, I no longer have anyone to document his verbal warning to. How can I keep track of where he is on the performance plan without HR to back me up when it comes time to do the write up?
Ran out of milk and bread late at night? Or worse, toilet paper? There is no Ops team to email to get that corrected. Also, no one provides a P&L statement at the end of the month to make sure my budget is on track.
DM market visit have you worried? My in-laws just popped by and my house looks like a war-zone.
The Xbox won’t log into Live. The camera ran out of batteries. Wi-fi is down and there’s no ETA for recovery. Not that tech support used to work the same hours my stores were open, at least I had someone to call. Now I am tech support.
There is no Customer Care department to refer complaints to. Son doesn’t like dinner? Doesn’t like sock color? Tubby time too long or too short? 1-800-Mommy-I-Don’t-Like-This for assistance.
I tell my friends the truth- I have never been so busy, but never so happy either. There are things I missed out on that I will never get back because when I worked in sales, the bulk of time was spent on the road or in stores. However, I certainly miss all my coworkers and everyone I worked with over the years. Especially HR.
I am in a prison made of sheets of 8 x 10 inch paper.
Despite my attempts to minimize my personal belongings, my biggest struggle is with paperwork. Not that I get massive amounts of paperwork in the mail, but every ‘system’ I have tried to organize, shred, or scan has failed.
I have a pile on the kitchen counter- mixed items, my son’s preschool notices, some coupons, and flyers I “may” need.
There’s a pile next to me at the kitchen table- a dual cd “Learn to Speak Spanish” my parents re-gifted to me. Church bulletin; healthy living magazine; and a folder from Berkshire Hathaway about selling homes.
In the dining room, three piles on the table- More preschool paperwork and crafts; medical bills; checks in and out.
Did I mention I do have an office? My excuse for not using it (although it stores several boxes of Avon business work)- I don’t have enough lighting and a chair. Simple fixes, right? But it keeps getting pushed to the back of my mind to get both items.
I have made the effort to digitize most of my monthly expenses- automatic debit, and paperless billing. I won’t discuss the 22,000 emails sitting unopened in my Gmail account. That’s a fight for another day.
I feel that with paperwork, I have more of a hang-up on letting go than my physical belongings. The terror of “what if I need this?” is real- mostly drilled into my mind from my Mom (sorry!) who was constantly telling me not to throw out paperwork ‘in case’ there was an IRS audit. I am not sure they would need my rental agreement from 2002, but I still have it ‘in case’. Or documents on how I paid off my student loans- “What if they come back sometime in the future and say it’s not paid?” How will I prove it?
Irrational, believe me, I know. Those are the crazy thoughts I have while trying to sort paperwork. I try to apply the same principles that I use for objects, but I struggle. A vicious circle in my mind of overcoming the silly ideas, that panicked “what if?” that creeps in my chest when I dare to think of burning every scrap of paper I have.
The struggle is real, my friends. I won’t declare defeat, I will adjust the method of attack and fight on. Knowing there is a peace once the paper is gone keeps hope alive for me.
My usual Holiday Shopping routine went something like this:
Work 70 hours a week
Wait till two days before Christmas
Panic shop, over spend, and not necessarily get a gift for people that they actually wanted.
Not everyone in your circle of friends or family may be on board with your Minimal tendencies- and that’s ok, we don’t want to force our beliefs on people, especially around the Holiday season. I have noticed, though, in the last few years that most gift requests have gotten more manageable. Let’s be real- not everyone will be happy if you don’t give them something heartfelt, just because you are not accepting gifts.
In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, and my relatively new–found Minimalistic lifestyle, I have compiled several tips I use to get you sanely, and on budget, thru the gift giving season.
Step 1: Plan Ahead. Ideally, you would have been saving money thru the entire year in an account specifically for gift-giving. If not, no need to panic, you can still get a gift people will appreciate. In planning ahead, draw up a full list of everyone you can think of that needs to have a token of appreciation and love for the year. This can be everyone from family to your favorite barista at the coffee spot. Once you have this full list, you can then go thru and really narrow down priorities (and assign dollar amounts).
Step 2: Cull the List and add a column for hobbies or favorite activities. Little Johnny likes trains- Add his name to the list, and mention trains in the hobby column. Springboard from there. I also will add a column to my list for max dollar amount I would like to spend, just to stay on track for debt management and prevention.
Step 3: Never Underestimate the power of Hand-Made and Hand Crafted. If the item is hand made by you, even better- it will be easier on your budget as well as showing someone that you care enough to make something just for them. I am not a crafter, but I love shopping on Etsy for one of a kind items that also support artisans in their craft. For instance, one of my favorite rings is a hand forged silver piece made by jewelers living on the coast of Bali. The story behind it’s creation adds to the beauty of the piece.
Step 4: Experiences vs. Physical items. This is a concept talked about everywhere these days. We tend to remember experiences more than getting an item. Case in point, all the electronics I purchased over the years that when to waste in less than 6 months when the item was already outdated. Again, you can support local businesses by choosing restaurants that are family or chef owned- you may find some gems in nearby towns that you and the gift receiver would love to try. Or if you are handy in the kitchen, invite friends over for a post-holiday meal to help them recover from the crazy season.
Step 5: Relax. Even if it’s for 10 minutes a day, try to separate yourself from the swirling chaos that retailers and businesses have made this season into. As a Christian, I try to remember to take time to reflect on the reason for my holiday season- and remember to calmly think of the gift we were given thousands of years ago. It has nothing to do with wrapping paper, shiny bows, or expensive lighting on the house. But it does remind me to take time for my friends, family, and myself to count my blessings. Enjoy the season, taking in all the simple joys it will bring.
What steps do you take to enjoy this season? I am always looking for new Minimalist ideas on how to slow down, simplify, and step back from commercialization. Share your thoughts in the comments 🙂