9 Simple Things That Bring Me Joy

Some simple things I enjoy that cost little to nothing. Prior to finding Minimalism, my list would have been more along the lines of what expensive handbag or cell phone I could purchase.

In no particular order–

-My morning coffee.  I have a Keurig that I will be retiring soon, and my Dad donated a French IMG_1135Press to me.  I love grinding beans before I brew- I have yet to find a more soothing morning routine and a better cup of coffee anywhere.

-Listening to the birds in the hedges.  I am up early enough with the pups and my son so I can listen to their music rather than turn on a station on Alexa.  It’s sweet, and pure and good for the soul.  Plus there are no commercials.

-Painting.  Something I do not do enough. In all fairness, I am two weeks from delivering baby, so it’s sort of uncomfortable to sit at the canvas for hours as before.   I enjoy interpreting the world around me however I want to- If you’ve never painted before, it’s great for focus and also relaxing.

-Reading. Or being read to- I have an Audible subscription I use on long trips, and I make use of the Kindle app on my phone and tablet.  Sometimes I get nostalgic for a good ‘real’ book in my hand, and I don’t feel guilty picking one up at the book store.

-Listening to my son play.  He has a big imagination, as most kids do, and likes to tell stories aloud as he creates things with Legos.  I would never be able to record all of the stories he’s spun- I hope my memory holds so that I can replay them when I am old.

-Baking bread.  I cheat. I use a Breadman machine I got several years ago at a yard sale for $2.  I’m not the best baker, but this lets me feel like I could be- and the smell of fresh bread baking makes any day better.  I also like that I control how much sugar is in it, and there’s no weird preservatives.  One of the best $2 investments I have ever made.

-Doing my own manicures.  Blame it on my years in ‘corporate’ life- I do like a fresh polish.  I do refuse to pay the money that I used to spend on one.  I make my own hand scrub with olive oil and sugar; use almond oil for a hand lotion, then file and paint.  It took me several months to get competent in painting them.  Well worth the effort, though.  And I find good quality polish on sale at grocery stores- last one I picked up was $.75.

-Gardening.  Although this year it may be scaled back to some planters of tomatoes and peppers, I like the process of watching seeds grow.  It also gets me some Vitamin D time in the sun and a yummy harvest at the end of the season.

-Hot foot bath.  I don’t have time in the day for a full bath, but I sneak 10 minutes in here and there for a warm Epson Salt and essential oil foot bath.  No essential oils on hand? No problem, some sliced lemon or orange, or vanilla to scent it works just as well.  Perfect for unwinding before bedtime.

If I sit a little longer, I’m sure I’d think of more simple things to bring me joy- Feel free to share yours in the comments section.

 

Two Weeks

Just under two weeks until we welcome our daughter to this world.  She is my second, so there is the anticipation of the joy of meeting her;  and the anticipation of the chaos of adding a new (hungry and crying) member to our family.

In a change from my first, I passed on having a baby shower when it was offered.  Partly, because I felt we made the decision to bring a little one here- it’s not fair to ask people to come to a party and furnish supplies for her.  The other, remembering the volume of ‘stuff’ I got for my son, I wanted to purchase only the Essentials for baby.  So many things went unused, or only used 1 time, it made me sad to see things leave the house brand new with tags on it.

I feel prepared, but there are still the unknowns- Not being sure her exact size at birth makes it a challenge for buying both clothes and diapers.  To satisfy my panic, I bought two small packs of diapers one in Newborn, one in Size 1.  Clothing is at a minimum as well- Some one size sleepy time bags (I remember the challenge of changing a diaper at 2 am and not wanting to stir a little one).  We were blessed by a family friend who donated two large boxes of beautiful newborn and infant clothing to get us started as well.

My son’s crib and changing table I hung onto for 5 years. I was too sentimental to let it go- sad that he may be my only baby, especially after my divorce, I had nearly given up hop

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2 Weeks till it’s the 4 of us

e.  But something in the back of my mind made me keep that, and a diaper Genie and other various necessities.  I tucked everything out of sight in the basement, and waited.  Thank God for Hope, or women’s intuition- saving those items literally saved us hundreds of dollars when we found out we were expecting.

 

I am glad my son will not be an only child- although I will miss the ‘just the two of us’ time we had.  He may never remember it, but I remember the several years as a Single Mom and how we grew together thru the experience.   He is now blessed with love from many people-  my favorite new mIMG_0826emories are watching my husband play guitar for him and having Vince laugh and dance and sing; or the three of us going to the local hockey arena and cheering for ‘Our’ team at the top of our lungs.

I can’t wait to meet Baby, and looking forward to the memories our family will be making.

Conscious Uncoupling

In the last few weeks, I have made an effort to monitor my social media habits and my ability to accomplish what I want to each day. Like many people, I am sure, I find that my smartphone- rather than being a tool- has become a mindless source of entertainment for me.  If it was a relationship status with social media- mine would be “It’s Complicated”

Under the guise of productivity and constant connection, I found that I had a set pattern of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, various forums, news outlets and then back again to the

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It’s not You, It’s Me- I just need a break.

beginning.  Standing in line at the store? Scroll thru some feeds.  Stuck on an art project? Turn to Instagram to see other artists and how my work measured up to theirs.  Time to write on my blog? I’d rather buzz thru Twitter to see the hot topics of the day.

 

Meanwhile, I bemoaned not having enough time.  My focus was out the window-  I had specific goals in mind the last few months for my family time, writing, and painting- and I was always too busy.  Yet there was always time for social media.

I’m able to admit my will power wasn’t strong enough to keep off it; I also acknowledge that the purpose of the smartphone and all apps, it to make it easy (and possibly addicting) to connect and share 24/7.   I won’t blame the technology, but I can see how it was easy to slide into using it all the time.

Instead of pulling the plug, I decided to do a “Conscious Uncoupling”,  in the spirit of a former Hollywood Power Couple.  I acknowledge I want social media in my life- but I want better control of it.   A blog post from the Minimalists reminded me of how taking a break every now and then can help you refocus on what you want to get out of social media.  It’s available Here , “How the Minimalists are Using Social Media in 2018” for anyone looking for motivation or encouragement on taking a break from the newsfeeds.

My first step was to remove my social media apps from my smartphone- all but Facebook Messenger (which my family uses rather than texting).  I did it one at a time, first Twitter, then Instagram, then Facebook.   I do need these programs to conduct business and stay connected- I am growing my art business, and how else will my blog get shared?  But I have found that there hasn’t been a message yet that needed my immediate attention- so they can wait until designated times of the day that I log into my tablet for updates.

Today is Day 1.  In the past I was able to go 40 days without any social media.   Now my goal is just to schedule it, like I would other household chores or projects– and get my focus back on productivity in the studio.   I would love to hear in the comments how others are backing away from smartphones, or how restricting your time on social media has improved the quality of your day to day life.

A Pug, A Yorkie, and the Fear of Missing Out

Most mornings, at 5:15, one or both of our dogs starts to whimper from the kitchen.  If the whimpering doesn’t stir us, the Yorkie goes out the dog door and announces to the world in plaintive howls that he is hungry and would like his breakfast.   Mind you, they aren’t starving, they eat twice a day- but they are on a strict schedule which doesn’t allow for humans to sleep in occasionally.

I will go downstairs to prepare a coffee for me, and get their meals ready as well.   Ony

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Ony. Also know as “Smudge” or “Onsie”

the Pug is diabetic, and has a special formula from the vet to keep her blood sugar in check.  Mojo, the Yorkie, has lost many of his teeth, and now enjoys a shredded, refrigerated dog food that’s easy on his gums.

 

Neither dog food is inexpensive.  Both dogs love their respective meals.

I separate them so that Ony doesn’t get in to Mojo’s dish- they eat in separate rooms.  With Ony’s diabetes, we have to be very careful about what she can eat.   They greedily chomp thru their meals, faster than I can even get the bowls filled.

And every morning, without fail, they clean their own bowl- then race, each to the other’s dish, to lick what crumbs may be left.  It’s as if they fear they have missed an even better meal, one superior to the high-end food they each currently receive.  Some days, they nearly knock each other over on the way to the other dish- convinced they didn’t get as much or as good a treat as the other has.

Fear of Missing Out. Jealousy.  I recognize the behavior because I see it in myself every time I scroll thru Facebook, or read an article on Pinterest.  Constant reminders that I don’t have enough, or I don’t measure up.  Powerful emotions that can drive us to spend more money on things we may not need; or at the least, make us ‘green with envy’.

Even with Minimalism- there’s the fear of not being “Minimal” enough.  I should ‘only’ own 2 pairs of shoes.  10 items of clothing. Live in yurt with no running water.  But each person has to find their own way in life. On this journey, the end product will look different for each person.  Maybe its ok to still have a book case with books on it; perhaps still owning a home and a car is not a disqualifier to be labeled “Minimal”.    The constant comparing to each other that tears at our souls and twists our emotions- There’s a fine line between being able to compare oneself to others to improve yourself- or to compare and let yourself sink into bitterness.

Every morning, when I feed the dogs, I thank them for their behavior.  I have a reminder that when I compare myself to others not to let jealousy rule my thoughts. Not to think what others have is better than what I have been dealt; and not to feel that I am less than what I should be. These pups have taught me a valuable lesson, simply by filling their dishes with food.

Home is Where the Heart Is

Home is where the heart is.  So I thought, until I sat and remembered my ‘stuff’ left at my old house after my move to my new life with my new husband.

I think I crushed my husband a bit when I childishly complained  yesterday  that I missed half of my life because it’s in boxes back North.  He gently reminded me that I was a Minimalist, or at least supposed to be one, and that he has also left behind parts of his life in boxes across the country as he has moved over the years.

I cling to that house because, again, childishly- it’s “Mine”.  I bought the house. I bought all the furniture. I bought all the decorations.  I inherited various decorations and antiques. Mine. Mine. Mine.

But it also represents a not so great time in my life- it was Mine, and my ex’s first purchased home.  Those memories there are best left behind in those boxes.

I am keeping the house, partially for my son, and partially for a cozy place in the country to stay at when I visit my parents.  Truth be told, I keep it mostly for “mine“- as a reminder of what I accomplished- As if my memory wouldn’t be enough to remind me of all I have done in this life.  I am scared to let it go, as if selling it erases the things I had done. I keep the house like a trophy in a case- dust it off occasionally to pat myself on the back for what I have done.

I am reminded that we can’t take any of this with us in the end.  And what investment is an empty 88 year old home to a 5 year old?  There are, I am sure, better investments made than property that needs to be kept up with.  I am tempted to rent it out- but then I struggle with the idea of someone other than myself being there.  Again, it’s “mine”.

Around and around in my mind I make my case for and against selling it.  At some point a decision will need to be made- finally settling that chapter of my life- and moving fully forward with the rest of my story.

 

 

Getting Used to the New Normal

A man lives sort of, well, in jerks. Baby’s born or somebody dies and that’s a jerk.  He gets a farm or loses it and that’s a jerk.  With a woman, it’s all in one flow like a stream, little eddies and waterfalls. But the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it that way.” –The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

I haven’t read this novel since high school, and I won’t explain how many years ago that was.  This quote stuck with me all these years, and came to mind again recently after hearing of health issues from friends and family members to start off this new year.

I can’t say that I always look at life’s changes as a flow in a stream- there were some thingsIMG_1849 that happened in life that shook me to my core; times where I wasn’t sure there was a way out, or the path was hidden from me.  Could I be so stoic as to accept the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (Hamlet, Shakespeare).  Some events we can weather, knowing it’s a passing storm- Some events, we can’t see the end of. Sometimes, there is no end.

My Grandmother would say “I am trying to get used to the new normal”, after the death of my Grandfather.  How can you lose a life partner? Before it happens, do you think of what life is like without them? Or do you shut it out, pray you are not the one left behind.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”. John 16:33 NIV

Remembering these passages remind me to expect the world to have trouble- there will be sickness, there will be loss, there will be pain, there will be death.  But by understanding these things will happen because it is the way the world Is somehow takes some of the sting out of the hurts we endure.   Letting go of expectations of a smooth ride in life releases me to enjoy the pleasant times, and look forward to the good times that do come after the hurts.

One foot in front of the other.  One small change each day.  A smile at a memory to get you thru the tears.  And remember, life– “it’s all in one flow like a stream, little eddies and waterfalls.” 

 

 

Small Steps

Two months until our family expands by one- and from what I remember from having my son 5 years ago- our time management will need to radically adjust. From late night feeding, to extra loads of laundry- and even time for simple luxuries like showering- all will now revolve around the needs of a little one who cannot articulate in a spoken language what she wants.

I am taking a step back and thinking about how I can survive those first few time crunched, penny-pinching,  sleep deprived months- and my journey in Minimalism can help me.

Some small steps to sanity I am taking now:

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  • Pre-cooking meals:  I like to have a hot breakfast for my son.  It’s something I’ve done for him ever since he’s had solid foods; a Continental breakfast of sorts. But let’s face it, who has time for that?  Today is Saturday- so I spent some time cooking waffles ahead that I can portion and freeze for the week ahead.  Same thing for bacon (if you are the meat-eating kind).  During the week I can then re-heat, add some fresh fruit, or quickly scramble an egg and he can have a warm breakfast to start his day.  I could buy these things in the frozen food section; but I prefer to make my own and add his favorite touches to it (fresh blueberries or strawberries) and it does end up being a little less expensive for me.
  • Refillable Foaming Soap Bottles:  Something my Mother always did while growing up, before being frugal or Minimalist was trendy.  I purchased empty foaming soap bottles- and from there you can fill with whatever variety soap meets your needs or budget.  I currently use a bulk soap from an essential oil company (which I then also dilute with some water to stretch out the value of).  But you can use any brand you choose. I figure besides saving $3-5 every time I need a hand-soap, I reduce some waste by reusing the soap bottles.
  • Speaking of Bottles: My husband is the King of repurposing plastic containers.  Sometimes too well, so some end up in recycling once I have done some cleaning.  Some now hold small toys, others hardware or supplies in our tool area.  The point is, we at least try to think of a use before we throw away empty containers- but I won’t allow hoarding of empty ones “just in case”.
  • Furniture Polish: I was tired of commercial polish for our dining room table not cleaning and leaving behind a streaky mess.  I found some different recipes online- my favorite at the moment is Olive Oil on a cloth with a drop or two of Orange Essential Oil.  We had some minor surface scratches that this mixture sealed up quite nicely, and the shine has held for two weeks now.  Wipe down with mixture, and then buff off excess with a microfiber, lint free cloth.
  •  Mirror Cleaner: My days working at a cosmetics counter at a department store taught me many things.  My favorite tip was to use 93% rubbing alcohol to clean mirrors- it was less expensive than the blue stuff, and left a streak free shine behind.

Some of these are time-savers, some money-savers. All help me stay focused on what’s important these days- Spending the bulk of my time with my family and enjoying their company.