The beauty of Less Stuff

A new year usually brings some resolutions for most of us.  Aside from the obvious of wanting be more healthy or more active, we also look for ways for our lives to be easier.

We feel the need to organize and declutter our belongings.  We go through items and decide whether we have used them over the course of the last year and then decide if we will use them in the future.  We rationalize the items we want to keep that hold sentimental value or that we hold onto ‘just in case’.  Not that this process isn’t helpful; many of us find it necessary to feel more clear and able to move onto the next year with a clean slate.

The problem is that we make room by getting rid of stuff, only to fill it with more stuff.  It is different stuff, but stuff nonetheless.

So what if we didn’t replace the items with other items?  What would happen to us?  Would we feel like we were lacking something?  or…would we feel like we were freer?

In the past I have tried to stick to the rule of  ‘if I buy something, something else has to go”  If I bought a new sweater (well…used more like), then I would have to give away a sweater I hadn’t worn in a while.  This kept the growth of stuff to a nil.  However, this year I am going to try to learn to live without the replacements as well.  If I get rid of a sweater, there will be no need to get another sweater for example.  The purchases will only be necessity based.

Using this logic, I am assuming, I have mostly what I need (aside from food obviously), so I will check in on occasion and let you know how I am doing with this.  The goal in this little experiment is to acknowledge that we have way more than we need.  The result I hope is that without replacing items I give away or purge from my home, that the temptation or ‘need’ to replace will wain.  With that, less stuff happens.



A Gen X’rs look at Minimalism


Minimalism isn’t just for Millennials anymore.

Nor is it for their (most) parents, the Baby Boomers (they get everything). The funny thing is that even though these two generations probably don’t see eye to eye on a number of issues – and Yes, I am generalizing, I know – they have both embraced Minimalism for many of the same reasons.

It just makes sense.

Less stuff = More life

Minimalism, or at least the new trending hashtag of Minimalism, was propelled out of necessity from a generation that was finding the ever increasing costs of housing, food, and transportation were not matching their starting salaries after graduating from University, especially if they are laden with student debt. Upon finding this ‘less is more’ way of living, and Instagramming this way of living, the retirement approaching Baby Boomers started to realize that this new approach may be exactly what they need in their lives.

Now, I am stating the obvious when I say that the Baby Boomers who have embraced Minimalism probably are still in much better financial shape than the Millennials who found themselves as minimalists by necessity. The generation who lead the exodus to the suburbs and the 4 bedroom house with double garage are now sitting in their 2500 square foot homes as empty nesters and wondering what their retirement years will look like. (Again, I am generalizing) By living as minimalists, they can live with less stuff in smaller apartments or condos in order to afford to travel and check off their bucket lists.

But what about the Gen X’rs?

Those of us born between 1965-1984 are still very much in the middle of their working lives. Since the youngest of this group are still in their early 30’s, they may just have finished their education or are just starting out with families of their own. The older X’rs probably still have children in school, living at home and are still a good 10-15 years away from retirement.

How can minimalism work for Gen Xr’s?

As a Gen X’r with three kids, all of whom are now living out of our home, as of this year. We are parents of a university student and one who has completed (at least for now) university and one who is following a passion for art and working full time. We are very new to the this empty nest, although, truth be told, the door tends to be a revolving one for a few years before they actually leave, and we are more than ok with that.

Generation X by name, is sort of this lost generation, heck, we don’t even have a cool name to put to us. The generation is between “go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, work for 30 years and retire” and “I want to find my passion and live it. All we have is today”. Believe me, it is a confusing place to be. We are often caught between two different lives we ‘think’ we should be living. If we compromise with either view, we are letting ourselves down and inevitably we are letting down others who are counting on us. The chronic sense of disappointment to those who ‘wanted more’ for us and those who think ‘we deserve more’ leaves us in limbo; unable to act for fear of making the wrong choice.

Here is where I think Minimalism can help us out.

  1. Begin by doing a regular rotation of ‘if one things comes in, one goes out’. We have tried this and it works really well. If we are in need of a new article of clothing in particular, we only replace, and not add to the the wardrobe we have. This allows us to be more choosy with our purchases and also to look at what we have and eliminate the things we are not using. By doing this, we can keep hold on storage that is necessary. We don’t need the extra bin or closet because we are still keeping the same amount of items in total.
  2. If you have kids, re-use items as the child grows out of them. I think this pretty much goes without saying. There are plenty of items that kids just don’t wear out. They grow out of clothing and shoes and sporting goods way faster than they wear them out. So use them for the next child in line. When you get to the end, if they are still in working condition, there are definitely places to donate gently used items.
  3. Buy used if you can. Why we have the need to buy everything brand new, pay full retail (or even sale price) is absurd. Just like the previous recommendation, there are people who have donated items to local vintage or resale stores that are in perfect condition. This not only saves you money, but also teaches your kids that brand new is not always necessary.
  4. The bigger house is not always necessary. This one may rub people the wrong way. What I mean by this is that as soon as we have our first child, then maybe start planning for the next, we think we have to have 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. We have this misconception that we have to have closets as big as some bedrooms are and ensuite bathrooms with a shower big enough for a party of 5. I am not begrudging anyone for wanting to purchase a bigger home for whatever reason they have, but this purchase is one that ends up giving people the most stress. The way I see it is that while the kids are small (0-6) they are basically in the same room you are most of the time. When they are 6-16, they may want some of their own space, which may constitute a room for them to hang out in. Then from 16 and up they are usually in and out of the house, and eventually leaving to go to college or university or work. Some move out when they go to school at 18 and never move back. So if you look at the time line, they are really only in need of their ‘own’ space for about 10 years. Take my word for it, the 10 years goes by fast. I guess what I am trying to point out here is that if the purchase of ‘too much’ house will cause you stress or require you to spend more time away from it to pay for it, then maybe it is just ‘too much’ house. Find one that fits you because when your kids leave, the echo is deafening.
  5. Your kids don’t want you crap…or your parents’ crap. This sound callous, I know. I am sure there will be things that I leave to our kids that they will cherish. There are things I have from my own parents that I cherish and couldn’t imagine getting rid of, but the china, crystal, knick knacks, silver serving pieces, and costume jewelry are literally collecting dust. I ended up with my Grandmother’s china and crystal and my Mother’s silver serving set. I also inherited a set of blue collectable plates that hung in my Mom’s kitchen. After years of storing them in a cupboard and moving them each time we moved, I decided to wash them and use them as daily dishes. They are completely mismatched but now they are in regular rotation in our daily dishes. The china and crystal gets used whenever we have a family dinner and yes, it gets washed in the dishwasher. The silver is in a box. Still. The thing to remember is that they are things. Things don’t hold the memories we associate with them, the memories are in us. Sure, there are always going to be items we just can’t part with, but if we were to use the money we spent on these things for experiences with the people we are leaving them to, they would be able to carry that memory forever.

I am not a person who tells people how to live their lives. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants the newest iPhone or the expensive pair of shoes. If those items are bringing them joy, without causing them stress later, then who am I to judge how someone spends their money.

The path of Minimalism is a very personal one. We need to use the tools that work for us in our own lives.  Minimalism for a Gen X’r may look completely different than for the Baby Boomer or Millennial, but by adopting some of the tools for Minimalism while still in our working lives, we may find that we gain something we can’t buy…time. The more effective we are in living a meaningful life and using our free time to engage in that life, the time we spend and the time we have becomes more valuable.

Instead of living to pay for things we may only use for a short time, look at the time it will take away from living to pay for them.

As a Generation X’r, we find ourselves in a unique place in history. We may be stuck between two diverse generations, but it may be us that leads the way to a happier, less stress filled future.

What is living “Intentionally”?

To live ‘Intentionally’.  What does that mean exactly?

There are so many buzz words in our culture these days.

Intentional living.



Conscious living.

We have all heard them and maybe even used them on occasion. But what are we saying.

About this time last year, I was turned onto The Minimalists and their pod casts and documentary, Minimalism.  It came to me a perfect time in our lives as our kids are in various stages and some have left the house and some have come back!  I wrote about this in a blog post, Abundance.  We have come a long way since sorting through things that we had collected along the way and have scaled our ‘things’ back substantially.

To live with Intention isn’t about depriving ourselves of things we enjoy or not buying anything.  I think it is easy to get into an almost manic state if we believe that if still have ‘stuff’ that we are living frivolously or not minimally or not intentionally.  

After all, what do we do with the things we want to keep?

There will be inevitably things we just plain want.  They may not seem important to someone else, but they hold value to us.  They may be things we use on a sporadic basis or just hold some sentimental purpose that we can’t imagine our life being without.  I think that rooting through the sentimental items is by far the hardest test to date for me. I have things that were my parents’ as well as things connected to the kids from over the years.  Minimalism and the Sentimental Mind post outlines my struggle with this exercise and how I made/making peace with letting go of some things.

Intentional Living to me means that I will choose what comes into my life while being fully conscious of what that item means to me or its usefulness.

To live intentionally is NOT about deprivation; it is consciously choosing what you bring into your life. 

The world we live in and have for many decades now has prided itself on a ‘winner takes all’ attitude.  We hold those up on pedestals who can buy whatever they want and have all the latest toys we wish we could have.  We spend our lives paying for things to fill our lives and think this is bringing us ‘happiness’.  This illusion of happiness is short lived when the next ‘thing’ we need is shown to us.  The cycle of buying, paying, and working for these things soon becomes what our life is about.

By purchasing things consciously and with the intention and the thought that we should be giving to them, more often than not we find that there were things we thought we needed but realize we don’t.

I have always been a fan of Yvon Chouinard , founder of Patagonia.  He brings the idea of “The more you know, the less you need” to his own life and to his corporate culture.  He stresses, not only in his personal life, but within his company, that we need not have the newest and latest and greatest of things as our culture leads us to believe.  We think these things bring us joy, but in reality, they demand payment, not only with currency but with our time.  Time is the one thing that equalizes us with everyone else.  No one person has more than 24 hours in a day.  How much is your time worth?  Time that is for friends, family, adventure, living, and yourself.

So as we set off at the beginning of another summer, we do so with purpose of filling our lives with memories and experiences rather than things that will be forgotten.  That to me, is intentional living.

What does Living Intentionally mean to you?



Minimalism and the Sentimental Mind

While on the evening commute yesterday, I listened to one of the latest podcasts from The Minimalists. If you’re unfamiliar with them, I encourage you to check out their podcasts as well as their documentary, Minimalism, on Netflix. It was their podcast, ‘Clutter’, that inspired me to write about my own experience with one of the aspects that they touched on; what to do with items you inherit or will inherit when you’re trying to minimize your own life.

I have lost both of my parents. My Mother when I was 26 and my Dad 7 years ago, so I am faced with items in my home that were theirs. When my Mom passed away at a young age, I felt the need to have as many items of hers as possible. One thought that kept racing through my mind was “I would be living my life from 26 years old without my Mother”, and I had to have something that was tangible to make me feel like she was there with me. I kept some sweaters, a coat she always wore, a long purple velvet dress I remember her wearing to any fancy event they were going to, a kilt she bought on holiday to Nova Scotia, and some jewelry. My Mom’s jewelry consisted of a couple of broaches, a few pairs of earrings, string of salt water pearls and her wedding rings. These items alone, were manageable, but once my Dad moved out of our family home and into assisted living, the need to possess as many items from my childhood was an unstoppable force. I was grasping. Grasping for something to remain the same in my world that had kids growing up at the speed of light, my Dad getting older to the point of not being able to care for himself, and the empty hole that was there since my Mom passed that I had lived with for so many years. Changes were fast and furious and maybe just having these items around would slow down time.

When my Dad moved out of his home, our home inherited more stuff. We ended up with a wall unit (admittedly I wanted this because my Mom had bought it just before she died), my Grandmother’s china and crystal, silver plated serving dishes, a coffee table, hall table, a few knick knacks, like Dalton figurines, and an old Singer sewing machine (you know the wooden type that fold down to resemble a desk). We also ended up with novels; lots of novels as my parents were avid readers (my Mom was a librarian). I also took a sweater that my Mother had knit my Dad that was way too big for him now and a couple of watercolour paintings that were hanging in his home that she had painted the last few years of her life.

The stuff that we brought (ok, I brought) into our home were carefully rationalized. The lack of time I had with my parents, especially my Mother, had to be filled somehow. She hadn’t seen my kids grow up and arguably my Dad wasn’t really present after she died either, so the day she died marks the day I lost them both to some degree. The idea of having their stuff surrounding me and my family somehow felt comforting and gave me the illusion of them actually being there. Their stuff made it easier for me to talk about them to my kids.

My husband and I had three kids. Our oldest was about 18 months old when I lost my Mom, so all three of them never knew their Grandmother. I wanted them to know her through her things. My Dad was never quite the same after she died. He tried for a few years to be engaged in our lives and his own, but depression and loneliness won out over the desire to go on. We (my siblings and I) tried to keep him interested in our what was going on with ourselves and our kids but his patience for living, or I guess I should say living without my Mother, was too much to deal with. The last few years of his life were probably the most engaged he was during that time in our lives. A short 10-15 minute visit was about all he would allow, but it was met with smiles and inquiring questions that seemed to be genuine. Our kids got to know him as much as he would allow and although they don’t have stereotypical ‘Grandpa’ memories, I think they knew he loved them in his own way.

My Dad has been gone now for 7 years, this year. It also marks the year our oldest child, turns 20. Although, as any parent would tell you, that fact doesn’t necessarily mean you are an empty nester. Our oldest is 26 and I think we can safely say he is on his own (well, living with the love of his life) and happy after a few back and forths. Our middle child is home for the moment while finishing his Masters degree. I am sure he is itching to get out again after living 6 hours away for four years during his undergraduate. Our baby, the near 20 year old, moved out last year for her second year of University with friends and will be doing the student house living probably for the next couple at least. In no way am I complaining that some of them still keep a bed here that they sleep in every now and again. Nor am I upset when they pop in for food or laundry facilities. They really are great kids to have around and have grown into adults that I like to sit down and have a coffee (or a beer) with. But again, as any parent would tell you, the visits will become fewer and further between as time goes on and they grow into a life of their own. Your mind can’t help but to go to a place where you look at your home and think, “Do I really need all this stuff?” The typical ‘downsizing’ predicament. You know that you don’t need that 2000 square foot, 4 bedroom house anymore, but you have this stuff. In order to downsize, some of the stuff must go.

Two years ago we decided to do a basement renovation. Not necessarily for the extra space but for the purpose of putting in another bathroom as we have to renovate our old one and it is the only bathroom. We also now that when the time comes to sell our home some day, having that second bathroom will only increase the value in our home. Prior to and during this year and a half long process (when you can do the work yourselves, it takes longer, but you save money), we had no choice but to face the boxes and get rid of some things. I thought I was ruthless in my purging efforts at the time as we ended up with 3 good trips to the dump, to deliver items to Value Village (our Goodwill) and giving away some items to our kids. Little did I know that there was still so much that I had kept that I would have to revisit.

This past year, after watching Minimalism, the documentary, I decided to revisit those boxes that I had closed up thinking that I had only kept the essentials. It is probably not a surprise that there was still so much stuff left we had held onto. Admittedly, it took a few passes through the boxes with the kids’ school work, art projects, old favourite t-shirts and toys for me to finally whittle them down to a few boxes per kid. I am sure there is still room to go but mentally I am not there yet to do it. I may leave some that up to them once they have to take possession of these boxes of memories. Going through the items that I felt held memories in them, specifically the memories of our children and their milestones, was a difficult task. I had to keep reminding myself that they may not care that they have their grade 3 creative writing journal. As hard as this task was to work through, it paled in comparison to the idea of ridding myself of my parents’ items we had been living with for at least the past 15 years, but it was good practice.

I decided to begin with my closet. There were a couple of things that had been hanging in my closet that I knew I would never wear that were my Mothers. I allowed myself 3 to keep. Three was a completely arbitrary number, so there is not science behind this, but I had to have a limit, a guideline. I kept her velvet dress, her Peacoat and her kilt. The sweaters and other jackets went to Value Village for donation (but I can guess they were bought by a vintage shop and then resold because they were surprisingly back in style). The act of letting these items go that I felt held me closer to my Mother that I hadn’t seen since 1992 was not easy, but it was not as difficult as I had imagined. The three items I let myself keep now hold more meaning because they are now the only items I have.

Next up on the docket was the china cabinet. The china I have is actually my paternal Grandmothers. Let’s face it, people don’t use china like they used to. I kept the china but use it for whenever we have a family dinner. We don’t save it for ‘special occasions.’ We use it because isn’t that the whole point of having it in the first place? Also in the china cabinet were plates that my Mother had displayed on a plate rack in her kitchen. She was a sucker for any kind of blue plate. They were pretty but I don’t have a plate rail in my kitchen, nor do I want to hang them up on my walls. The stack of plates were stored in my china cabinet still wrapped in tissue from one of our many moves and never looked at again. I got them all out. Unwrapped them all and started sorting. I stopped about halfway through when the thought occurred to me to just use them, like the china but for everyday dishes. I washed them and put them in my dish cupboard for us to use on a daily basis. They are all mismatched but I kind of like that about them. I was able to rid myself of some items from the china cabinet though. I had carried around a set of dishes from my Mother’s step-mother. Yeh. I know. Why? They have been donated. The silver plated serving dishes (screaming 1970’s) were next. I will never use silver plated serving dishes. Ever. If I don’t use them, chances are, my kids are not going to spontaneously have a need for silver plated serving dishes. They have been donated. The items I chose to give up out the china cabinet were easier than the clothing. They were definitely items I didn’t use anyhow, nor would my kids ever use them. The dishes I kept, I make sure they get used to create more good memories for our family and friends. Maybe my kids will want them when I am gone, maybe they won’t, but the memories will be there regardless if the dishes are not.

The novels my parents had have been released from their boxes they were housed in for many years and are now on a bookshelf for us to see and to read. The books were also sorted into ones that I would actually want to read and books that there was no way I would ever find readable. The unreadable books were given away and the books we kept are now being read. I am making my way through the collection my parents curated and enjoying them more because I feel like they were picked just for me.

There are still some things that I have yet to part with that belonged to my parents. There is a certain pang of guilt when the thought crosses my mind. My Mother had a couple of Royal Dalton figurines that were given to her and I have two of them. She also had a box of broaches, earrings and some necklaces. I have given a few broaches to our daughter and she wears them since she is lover of vintage clothes and accessories. The engagement ring is packed away and her wedding band I wear and have since she died. The humongous wall unit is in our bedroom and is currently used to house our sweaters but if I was to be honest, I hate it. So why do I keep it?

The process of giving away, giving up or releasing ourselves from not only our own stuff but stuff that was inherited or given to us is ongoing. We of the Generation X (I know the Boomers have already started this process) will be faced more and more with the angst and joy of ridding ourselves of things we no longer need in our lives. Traditionally, the generations before us would just hand everything down to their children, hence the predicament we find ourselves in now. As the Millennials age, we are faced with the fact that they just don’t want the stuff. To be honest, we didn’t want our parents’ stuff either but I would argue we were guilted more into taking it. The way most Millennials want to live is very much in line with Minimalism. They have seen the life of excess and they don’t want any part of it. Millennials have made the connection between wanting or ‘needing’ stuff and paying for it in one way or another. This is not to say they don’t want to work but know that there is way more to life than working to pay for or collect things. They want to experience life, not just get glimpses of it along the way.

So the duty now falls on us as parents of Millennials to do a few things.

First, keep only the few items you inherited from your parents that hold real meaning to you and share them with your kids. Tell them about the items and put them on display or use them daily to get the absolute most out them. Second, don’t burden your kids with the expectation that they are to keep all these items once you can no longer house them or when you are gone. This generation is onto a good thing, as far as I am concerned. They are looking at life in a way I wish I had at their age. They are not caught up in the consumerism of previous generations and if we have any chance as a society, we would allow them to be able to say no the excess of stuff and use their lives to create, serve others and work to make the world even more beautiful. Lastly; they don’t want your magazine collection, but they may want your records. My meaning by this is that the stuff we may have gotten joy out of in our lives, may not be what they find meaningful. So ask. Once they are old enough and if you are in the process of downsizing or even pre-downsizing, ask them what they may want for their own. It may surprise you to know what they want and equally surprising to know what they don’t want. Things are only sentimental to those who have the memories behind them.

We are only at the beginning of our Minimalism journey; and I use the word journey as I think it is just that. We will be constantly reevaluating what we have in boxes or in drawers or on shelves. We may find joy in things today but not tomorrow. Our kids will be left with things to go through our stuff some day but let’s hope we have left them more good memories than stuff they feel they need to keep.


The More you Know, The Less you Need


Your Value isn’t in the Things you own, it is in the Things you do.

We all do it.  We place value in our things.  To be fair, there is value in things, of course,  We may value some thing we own because of the amount of money we spent on it or it may hold sentimental value for us or we use this thing regularly and it brings us happiness.

But are these things used to assess our value as a person?

A while back we had a blog post called, Declutter or Rearrange – The Grey Zone.  I highlighted my own struggle with the grey zone between decluttering and rearranging (or reorganizing).  I think that we choose to rearrange in order to keep the things we think give our lives value and struggle with getting rid of them because we think our personal value will be lost if we do.

Our society puts so much emphasis on what we have.  The quote by Yvon Chouinard, “He who dies with the least toys wins, because the more you know, the less you need” says something that I think I have always felt but recently have put into more practice.  I read his book, Let my People Go Surfing,  about 10 years ago and his thoughts really resonated with me and what I had thought was important.  To put this into practice isn’t always easy, especially in our society where value and things are held as proportional.

I suppose if I were to be honest here, I am probably considered frugal when it comes to purchasing items like clothing or other personal items.  In fact, at the moment, I take a weekly trek to the laundromat, and have for the last 4 weeks since our washing machine died.  I honestly don’t mind the hour it takes me to do it there and it gives me the time to read, catch up on emails or do a blog post.  I am sure the novelty will wear off but for now, I prefer not to buy a new one.

The fact of my frugality may make it a little easier for me to part with things or not to purchase them in the first place but nevertheless, our family has accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.  There were many years where we had to have the latest gadget, the best sports equipment, or the coolest clothing.  We have spent our share of money shopping (although I never did enjoy this outing) in the quest to have things to make us happy or to give our lives value.  After the shiny newness of the object or clothing wears off, we are just left with more stuff and we set off on the quest to feed the need for us to feel valuable once again.

We equate the value of these items to our value as people.

If I have the newest phone….

If I have the coolest shoes…

If I have the nicest car….

If I have the best wardrobe….

We admire those who do have the newest, coolest, nicest and the best of things in life.  We watch their lives on social media with varying levels of envy.  We assume they must be really happy, because they sure look happy in the photos with all their new stuff. We give them a value as people because of their stuff, not because of what they do.

The quote by Yvon Chouinard really makes a statement to the contrary of what we are told throughout our lives.  Chouinard is a visionary and has run his business, Patagonia,  while weaving his ethical fibre throughout it.   Although he is monetarily successful, he hasn’t waivered from his ethics and what he sees as valuable in his life, or the lives of his employees.

So here is the question I have for you.  What makes you valuable?  Is it the new car, the big house, the new cell phone or the impressive job title?  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things.  But where people inevitably find stress in their lives is when they assume they more valuable because of these things and when they can’t be achieved, we feel like we have failed.

Value of one self is not because of the things we have.  What are the things you do that makes you valuable?  Not your job title, but your actions.  Are you a good friend?  Are you an honest person? Are you willing to help out when needed?  Are you happy to propel others and support them when they need a boost?

There are so many ways to find value in the things you do.  The more you put value on your actions, the less you put value on things.  So as I circle back to that Grey Zone of decluttering or rearranging, the easier it is to release myself from some of the things I felt gave me value, when in fact, my value was there regardless of these things.

Our value as humans cannot be quantified.  We can only strive to be of value to others, to the world and to ourselves.  The things we own do not add to the value we hold as human beings.

As we go along this trek through Minimalism, we realize this fact more and more.  Now, that doesn’t mean there is an all or nothing rule inforced.  Just because you choose to keep things in your life, doesn’t mean you hold no value.  There are plenty of things we have chosen to keep that bring us joy or are just plain functional in our lives.  But, by asking the questions, we can be assured (at least for the time being) that the things we choose to keep are important to us.  We also know that if they were not there, our lives would go on and we would still see our lives as valuable.



Everything has a Cost



I’m listening to more of The Minimalists podcasts lately after a bit of a break over the holidays and this keeps coming back to me.

To be honest, I have never been a chaser.  I may have been seen as lazy or not motivated to push myself.  I am not saying anything is wrong with having ambitions.  I have ambitions, but they have never driven my life because I always had this knawing feeling that there is something that has to be exchanged in order to be an ‘achiever’.

We tend to focus on and are told to focus on the grabbing after our goals at work, looking for the next pay hike, buying the nicer car, getting that bigger house and purchasing the latest and greatest of gadgets. The more money we make, the more money we tend to spend as we justify it since we are making more money.  We feel like we ‘deserve’ those items.

We say to ourselves “I worked for it, I should be able to buy it.”

I suppose at the surface, this statement is true, but there is an inherant illusion that comes with this statement.  The illusion is that you only pay once.  You actually pay at least twice.  Once, with during your work, and then with your time, your relationships, your health and your life.

Now, again, I am not saying that if your dream is to become an VP of a company, or the best at whatever you chose to be,that there is something wrong with that but there have been far too many people who live for that carrot and never taste it.  The chase never ends.  They reach a certain level and then that level isn’t enough.  Most times, people tend to over extend themselves once they start to make a bit more money and then end up on the treadmill of needing to make more money.  The cycle of the chase continues and the goal is never met.

Our lives are finite.

That may be a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’re young.  I’m not saying, sell everything and live off the land, but be aware.  Be aware of the fact that there is so much more to life then the chase.  You already have the carrot.  Take a bite and enjoy it.

Get ready for…Buy Nothing Day!!

First…Happy US Thanksgiving to our friends south of the border!

It has been a tension filled year for you and we understand that you may feel like your country is divided.  Your Thanksgiving is upon you and it is time that is meant for celebration of love and family and friends. We hope this is a time of healing for all.

Thanksgiving also kicks off the Christmas shopping season for you (and for us, here in Canada to some extent).  The temptation to shop til you drop tomorrow on Black Friday can be great.  The retailers bank on the public flooding to their websites and locations to grab up any deal they put out there.  The problem is, are we just filling our lives with more stuff because it is perecieved that we need it or that we are getting a good deal?

There is an alternate to Black Friday…

Buy Nothing Day. 

Yup.  Nothing. Think of it as a challenge.  You’ve done the 30 day Ab challenge, 30 day Plank challenge, maybe even the 30 day squat challenge, so this should be easy!  One day.  Don’t buy anything.  When the retailers are waiting for you to click or tap your card, don’t do it!  The feeling will be so completely liberating.

You make think that you’ll be missing out on deals.  


It isn’t a deal if you didn’t need it.

If you have to buy something or you want to start your Christmas shopping, take this day to be more mindful of what you are purchasing.  Shop locally and support local small businesses.  If you are able, make some of your gifts or give an experience as a gift instead of more stuff.

The idea of Buy Nothing Day is to become more aware that the price tag is just one part of the purchase.  You still are spending the money.  You still are accumulating more stuff that you may only use for a short time, or sometimes not at all.  Maybe less stuff will make room for more time. 🙂

So from Us at Crave Life, to our friends celebrating Thanksgiving, we hope you have a safe and happy holiday!  


Minimalism and Food-Blending the Two

As I read more about minimalism and try to put some practices in my own life, I realize that there are many different facets to it.  We look at minimalism traditionally as sparse surroundings and very few objects and belongings.  We may even think it to mean living simply, meaning to not indulge in things that we feel are not necessary.  We could feel that it means that instead of spending our hard earned money on objects that fill our spaces, we chose our spending to be on experiences that fill our lives and those around us.

As I try to include more minimalism in my own life, I thought that we could caste a net pretty large here and include how we eat.  I certainly don’t mean minimal eating as in little or no food, I simply mean to eat food that nourishes us, gives us more than just a fleeting moment of joy, and also enhances the lives of others.

So how do I eat by enhancing the lives of others?  I would argue that eating food that is locally produced is absolutely one of the first ways to do that.  Shopping at your local farmers’ markets, food co-ops, or even going to your supermarket and buying locally produced food is a place to start.  Supporting locally grown food not only enhances your life as nourishment and knowing where it came from, but you also are giving the farmer or person making the food an opportunity to enhance their lives by supporting their passion.  Knowing where your food comes from can make you feel like you have some say, in not only what you eat, but also how it is made or grown.

Taking this thought on food one step further, without sounding like I am preaching, I wondered if minimalism is captured in eating as a vegetarian or vegan?  I have never been a big meat eater.  Even as a kid, we didn’t eat a lot of meat once I became a teenager.  My Dad was always battling with his weight and for a long time the only meat in our house was chicken and the occasional turkey on holidays.  I stopped eating red meat more years ago than I can remember and for the last 3 or 4 years, I have been vegetarian.  I eat extremely little dairy as we buy almond milk (with some lactose issues in our family, this was easy), and I eat the occasional egg (from free run local farms).  I tell you this not to shame anyone or to sound like I am doing something everyone should be, but to give you background.  For me, eating this way has been my normal.  When I started thinking about minimalism with regards to eating and food choices, I think that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet (and I hate that term-diet) just goes so well together.

As minimalists carefully chose what they include in their lives as far as objects and experiences go, why not include food?  Typically a vegetarian or vegan way of eating falls in line with minimalism as the food you are eating provides what is necessary for your body to grow and remain healthy.  A vegetarian and vegan way of eating also goes further to include the health of  the animals that are brought up to be food or produce food for us.  A vegetarian and vegan diet also enhances the life of the planet.  It is proven that the agricultural sector of our society is costing the planet huge in environmental damage. Without getting into a big debate on global warming and animal activism, even avid meat eaters have to admit that factory farming is not farming as it once was.

I hesitated on posting this as I don’t want to come off as preachy or that what I am doing is better or something you should consider in your own life.  I am merely sharing my experience as we try to become more minimalist.  The way I see it, to include the way we buy food and eat food, can be incorporated into a minimalist way of life.  We are left with buying food that is nourishing us and the lives of those producing it.  We are also left with the knowledge that how we are eating is enhancing the lives of animals and the Earth.


Declutter or Rearrange? The Grey Zone

via Daily Prompt: Rearrange

I wasn’t going to do a Daily Prompt today, in fact I have a recipe to post, but I scrolled through the WordPress Reader today and saw this Daily Prompt and couldn’t help myself.

As some of you may have read on our blog, I am attempting some minimalism in my own home,and life.  I have sorted through, thrown out, given away various items to thin out the ‘stuff’ that we haven’t seen or used for a very long time.  The word prompt, Rearrange, caught my attention right away.  The process of decluttering or minimizing is tricky, it can often be disguised as rearranging.  I found myself guilty of this very thing.

Feeling oh so proud of myself as I sorted through boxes of stuff in our basement last year, and getting rid of a huge portion of it, emptying boxes and finally parting with things I thought would be difficult to lose, I found myself this month looking around that area of the basement and thinking,’there is still so much stuff down here’.  Did I just ‘rearrange’ things?  Did I just put things in other boxes and amalgamate into bigger boxes?

I began to open boxes and realized that there is still so much more to do.  Sure, I had purged some stuff that seemed insignificant but I haven’t really challenged myself to minimize.  I still need a basement to store this stuff!  Now, sure, there will be items I have to store.  My kids don’t really have homes where they can store some of these items that are theirs, but how much of it is stuff I want them to keep and not what they want to keep?

Over the next few months, when the weather is keeping us inside more of the time, I will have to put on my big girl pants and challenge myself to not just rearrange, but to really purge some of the old toys, art work, books, and the sporting goods.  I may need to recruit them to see what they actually want to hold onto for their own lives.  They may not want their grade 2 spelling work book!

I have said this before, and here I am saying it again, the act of minimizing is a process.  It is one that you have to revisit often.  It is one that you have to question constantly, “am I minimizing, or am I rearranging?”


Word Prompt – Complicated

Monday morning and the brain is trying to find inspiration, so I turn to the daily word prompt.  This word prompt is a couple days old but it just jumped out at me.  Complicated.


I love this quote on making life complicated.  As we aspire to simplify life by minimizing the clutter or stuff that we have accumulated over the years, we realize that things start to become clearer.  Not just cleaner, but clearer.

The clutter or extra stuff we have, even if we have it stored away somewhere in our house is almost like visual white noise.  It is a constant hum around us that we have to listen to, or in this case see.  To simplify, quiets the noise.

This doesn’t mean to trash all of your possessions. This merely means to have around you what is most important.  By being selective with what we chose to have around us, we then start to have control of our lives and see that it can be made more simply.

We all do it.  We all make our lives more complicated by taking on too much at work, or buying too many things we think we need, or by simply not taking time to do things that would enhance our lives.  We all know that there is some place in our lives we could simplify.  There  are things we could rid ourselves of in order to make our lives less complicated.  We have all seen the quotes and Facebook posts on simpler times, yet we don’t think there is anything we can do to make our own lives easier.

There are simple things we can do.  The amount you chose is yours, after all it is your life.  We don’t all have to beat the same drum.  My version of simplifying may be different from yours. The accomplishment should be so there is a change in your life; a change that makes you feel freer and have a life less complicated.

So on this Monday, when most of us are trudging back to work, think of one thing, big or small that you can change to make your life a little simpler.  You will feel that sense of freedom that will make you want to do more. Have a great week!

One word Inspiration

Writing on a blog I find that I am often torn between writing anything and everything and writing nothing.  You feel that you have so much to say one day and absolutely nothing the next.  You feel that whatever you are writing will be of absolutely no interest to anyone else on the planet that may end up reading your post or you have just written the most intriguing piece ever written.  There doesn’t seem to be an in between…at least not for me.

Some days, I just need inspiration.  I create something in the kitchen and think I should post it, and then that part of your brain says ‘Who would care?’  However, the times I have just thrown caution to the wind and posted it, we have had some pretty good response.

I was in need of some inspiration lately and came across a WordPress course offered.  I had done a couple in the past and thoroughly enjoyed them so when I saw a course on daily writing inspiration, I jumped at it.  So today’s inspiration comes in the form of a one word inspiration.  Out of the words listed, I chose ‘abundance’

Abundance is often paralleled with excess.  We equate abundance with the idea of more; in particular more stuff.  More things. More money. We recently went to a viewing of Minimalism, The Documentary.  This documents the journey of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists through their recent book and speaking tour.  They are well known for their pod casts and although their following started small, they are now selling out speaking events and the movie is getting more and more screenings all over the world.

Without giving too much away, the journey into minimalism for them was very much evolutionary as life changes occurred for both of them.  Coupling life changes with discontent in their professional lives, they found themselves searching for an easier, yet more fulfilling way to live. Simplifying may seem counter intuitive at first when we think of abundance.  Yet somehow one does result in the other.  We just have rethink what we want to have an abundance of; stuff or time…money or people…work or life.

Most of us would find the idea of turfing our possessions to the extent that some people did in the movie a little unnerving.  After all, we have worked hard to get those things, and they may hold some emotional meaning.  With minimalism, we alter what we tag this emotional meaning on to.  Abundance can begin to mean more time; more fun; more life.

Now, we may not all decide to hire a bin and throw out all of our stuff, but if we begin to shift our thinking when we do purchase things to ‘what is the cost? and do I need it?’ we can begin to see that the accumulation slows down.  The cost may not just come monetarily.  Time at work or time taken away from friends and family may be the cost.  Time taken away from things we enjoy may be the cost.  The need of this item may be easily justified in the beginning but after contemplation, we realize it is a want and not a need.

As we begin our journey for more abundance, and by abundance I mean more life, less work, we will start to pare down some of the things we have been holding on to and accumulating less.  There will be things that are obviously meaningful or have a nostalgic attachment to them and you may feel that you are not ready to get rid of them.  The thing is, there are no rules and regulations to this process.  The idea is that we become more present in our choices.

So in my home, we are currently undergoing a gradual shift.  We have a three kids in various stages of their lives and in various stages of where they are living.  In a few years, we can see that they will be on their own, living their lives.  As we search for a life with less stuff and an abundance of time and life, we will share our journey with you.

If you get a chance to view a screening of this Minimalism documentary, I would recommend it.  Take the pieces of it that speak to you and leave the rest.  Some things may seem drastic to you, some may make perfect sense.  One thing to take away is that this life is the only one we have; remember to live it.