Minimalism as a Single Mom

Today, a post on a Minimalist Facebook Group got me thinking about my time as a Single Mom.

At the time, there were some drastic changes that had to be made- I was downsized out of work due to a corporate merger, and at the same time became a single Mom to a two year old- while still managing a mortgage and car payment.

Some of the items on my list I have reinstated in life as my circumstances have changed- but I do remember that those few years as a Single Mom were some of the most stressful and joyful of any I have ever had.

  • Dropped cable television: I replaced with slower internet and a Netflix account so I could still job hunt and have some entertainment for my son.
  • Text Only Prepaid Phone: This one I sometimes wish I had stuck with. Once my income dropped, I switched to a $25 a month prepaid plan with a text only phone.  It is amazing to be free of the constant notifications of email, but still just a phone call away.
  • Sold Items on Ebay:  Once my corporate job was done, I was able to sell off a collection of gently used tech products (old phones, tablets) and ‘career wear’ clothing or purses- In one month I ‘made’ around $1100 on these items.  You would be amazed what people will buy on Ebay.
  • Bought and Sold at Consignment Shops: The good and the bad of small children is they are constantly moving up in clothing sizes. We almost exclusively shopped at consignment stores, and I was able to sell back an amazing amount of clothing once my son outgrew them.
  • Donated nearly 100 Books:  A splurge during those times was a book on Kon-Marie; and part of it was dealing with the volume of ‘stuff’ I had collected.  Namely, my precious library. But after sorting it, I found multiple copies of books, and in the end, donated about 100 to local charity.  While I didn’t have a ton of money to donate to favorite causes, I felt better being able to give back something during this time.
  • Dined In- Gardened Out:  To save money, my dining out budget was slashed to- zero.  During the summer, my son and I planted a small garden- enough to keep both of us busy and to provide fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, onion, and carrots. He enjoyed the benefits of nature and fresh air, and I saved money on fresh veggies while having quality time with him.

I have a very supportive family and circle of friends who helped me navigate all the changes in my life during that time.  But even with the stress of it all, we survived and thrived- and once we were back on our feet, I could look back and be happy with all that we accomplished then.

Minimalism as a Single Mom

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Resolution setting has always made me feel like I need to fundamentally change myself- which was intimidating. I normally fail at sticking with the resolution, somewhere near the end of January.  Sometimes a change must happen quickly- such as a change in lifestyle due to a medical issue, or perhaps a job change.  Typically though, life moves along smoothly enough that any radical changes (such as the ones resolutions bring) makes me cringe. 

Instead of resolutions this year, I have decided to write a  2018 To-Do List.  I have more success writing a daily list of items to accomplish.  I enjoy crossing them off at the end of the day when I review my journal before bed.

I am going on the assumption that if a To-Do list is working for me on a daily basis, it may translate well to a Yearly To-Do.  Again, years of management kicking in here- if you

IMG_0727
Hoping 2018 brings a bright start to you.

want employees to reach a target, it had to be one that was easy to achieve, relevant, and measurable- (some blend of George T. Doran’s S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system).  So I make my To-Do list items ones that match this system.

 

Part of my personal “2018 To-Do” list:

  • Once a Day painting for 30 days
  • Once a month shipment of donations to charity
  • Twice a month digital scan of paperwork and dispose of hard copies
  • Drink 40 ounces of water per day

Each of these items I can set a reminder on a calendar as a “To-Do”- keeping in mind I can be flexible enough to move the date if it overlaps something I can’t move, lets say a doctor appointment for my son.  At the end of the month, I can then see if the item has been accomplished; and if it hasn’t, set a new date and adjust my thinking as to why I wasn’t able to do it.

Follow up is key- You can set as many goals or targets as you like, but if you forget to measure them along the way, or track your success it makes it impossible to know when or if you have reached these goals.

Here’s to a brand new start with a New Year, and a new way to track my progress on this journey.

 

 

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Simplify the Season

I felt out of place yesterday at Preschool drop-off.  The parents were in line waiting and discussing their gift-giving issues: namely, that Santa has left sooo many packages from Amazon, they are running out of places in the house to hide the gifts for their kids.  Another Mom moaned that she hasn’t even started shopping and the lists keep growing.  More complained that they will never get the gifts wrapped in time.IMG_1597

So much stress.

I didn’t offer my own experience this year, I stood quietly and listened, thankful that my gifts are here, and wrapped – all in a single cardboard box on my dining room table.   We had 11 people to purchase for this year (more than most years).  We didn’t “minimize” the gift giving- it seemed as though most gift ideas for people we were given were for food related items, or things that can be used nearly year round.

My son, who is 5, only requested a copy of Minecraft, which we did purchase for him.  I also got him a set of Tinker Toys since he enjoys building things. For stocking stuffers, I got him a few new toothbrushes, some glitter glue and craft items, and a checker board from Dollar General.   I think because we don’t have cable, and what tv he does watch is on Netflix, he wasn’t exposed to as many commercials for toys.  His list was short and true to what he really loves.

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Gingerbread House Mission Complete

Thanks to shorter lists, and the use of online shopping, instead of stress from rushing from store to store, desperate for the latest item, I spent more time baking cookies and building gingerbread houses with Vince.   Our family spent an hour or so wrapping gifts.   It has been one of the few holiday seasons I did not feel completely overwhelmed and burnt out.  I was able to make memories with my son and husband that I hope to remember for a lifetime.

It’s not to say this season will be picture perfect-  My husband will be working on the actual holiday.  My son will be at his father’s house the entire Christmas weekend.  My parents are over an hour away, and my sister and brother in law will be working and live out of town as well.   We have real logistical issues for even celebrating together this season.

Had I faced that, and also the stress of crazy shopping, I would not be able to calmly sit and enjoy what time we do have together– And the time we spend together is the most precious gift I’ve been given this year.

 

 

Simplify the Season

Big Tree, Little Tree

‘Tis the season for decorations- At least in this part of the world.  As a Minimalist in training, this time of year poses challenges to me as I am torn between enjoying the abundance of decorations, and the need for quiet reflection on the season’s meaning.

Two years ago, when my son was 3, I downsized our holiday. I was in the middle of a divorce and will admit my mind was having a difficult time focusing on the holiday between attorney phone calls and unpleasant texts with my ex-to-be.   My sister donated a small, sky blue Disney-themed tree to me- the tree couldn’t have been more than two feet tall or so.  I happily took it- a reminder of how I was stripping away the unnecessary in life.  I smugly thought I could also use it as a teaching moment to my son.  We didn’t need ‘things’ or big flashy Christmas decorations to celebrate- that’s not the meaning of the holiday.

“It’s not big enough”.

That was my toddler’s comment when he looked on the little tree, contempt written all over his tiny face.  “Grandma’s tree is bigger. This one is too small. I don’t like it”.

2017 Xmas
Big tree or little tree? Which, or none, did you go with this year?

I explained to him what Christmas was about.  I explained the gift of baby Jesus to the world.  I explained there were many people in this world that had less than us and we should be grateful for what we had.   No luck.  “It’s not big enough”-  Every single time he walked by that tree, that was the comment that humble little tree received to it’s shiny lights and perky color.

Why couldn’t I change his mind? Why couldn’t he see that my way of viewing the world, and the holiday, was the right way to celebrate the season?

Part of the reason is that he was 3 years old.  There’s a lot of brain development yet to go.  Maybe my intentions were misguided-  he was also going thru challenges with the divorce in the household, and to disrupt one more thing wasn’t the best idea. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to ‘force’ my ideas on simplification on anyone.

In any case- that little tree left it’s mark on both of us.  Now 5, he still reminds me, “Do you remember that little tree we had for Christmas? It was so tiny”.   I will never forget it.

Our new family will gather around a decidedly non-Minimalist, 9 foot tall tree this year, and make more memories.  While it towers over us, instead of being frustrated that we aren’t ‘downsizing’, I choose to let it remind me of the woods of Northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up.  I will try to take time to focus on the simple side of Christmas, the quiet  peace in a church service, the family and friends we will spend time with.   The debate on the merits of a Minimalist aesthetic in decorations can wait till after the holidays are over.

My son’s reaction to the tree reaching so far over his head?

“It’s perfect!”

Big Tree, Little Tree

Sick Day

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.

 

Sick Day

The Things I Don’t Have

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.

Thanksgiving

The Things I Don’t Have

Shameless Self Promoting

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’ frIMG_0984(Edited)iendly, 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”.

Shameless Self Promoting