Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Minimalism Motivation

I don't want to have to figure out what to do with egg holders & plates featuring hugging bunnies during the Easter off-season (but thanks to Noah for posing so thoughtfully by a decorative rabbit).

Bathroom: Check!

I received a HUGE compliment this past weekend. Noah, a Nebraska friend, stopped by my house briefly to catch up, and here's the gist of the conversation...

"Kristen, I like the decorating or whatever in your bathroom."

"Oh? Really?"

"Yeah, 'cause you didn't have a lot of stuff by your sink like some girl's bathrooms, so when I went to wash my hands, I didn't have to guess which stuff would make my hands sticky & smelly and which stuff would be soap."

Score! My bathroom is officially uncomplicated.

And I know it's probably too much information, but here's my bathroom. I'm definitely not a pro at mood-inspiring interior decorating, but I like maps & I like keeping stuff off my sink. Can you find Kazakhstan in your bathroom?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is Uncomplicated Living?

A few weeks ago the Everyday Minimalist posted an excellent article about the differences between minimalism, frugality, simplicity & green living.
  • Minimalism: live without lots of stuff
  • Frugality: live without paying a lot for your stuff
  • Simplicity: live with the basics
  • Green: live with eco-minded choices
I don't feel the need to define my lifestyle of attempted uncomplication (I feel like I would lose flexibility with committing to one particular definition), so instead I like borrowing aspects of each. Here's what I like about each in no particular order:

Minimalism: Generally I like this approach to possessions and for me, deciding to live with fewer possessions lessens stress & makes moving a lot easier. I have less to clean & less stuff to make me feel guilty for not using.

Green: I can do small things that aid in lessening the environmental impact of my life. I reduce, reuse, & recycle.

Frugality: By nature I'm a saver, so any opportunity I have to save money is good. Sometimes this backfires since I'll choose the cheap option over a more expensive, higher quality option that would not have crapped-out on me as quickly, so I end up buying two things instead of one, but I'm working on rational frugality.

Simple Living: Going back to the basics involves taking a step back and considering what is really important in my life. Instead of simply focusing on my relationship to my possessions, simple living has extending into my eating habits, how I spend my time & how I approach my relationships with other people.

Although these lifestyle trends can provide people with a general direction for certain decisions, I'm still a fan of the 1 Thessalonians 4:11 lifestyle, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making Winter a Win-Win-Win Situation

It's cold & gray outside, it's been cold & gray, it will continue to be cold & gray for another month or so. Arg, I'm definitely a summer person! I'd been thinking about doing a "Surviving Winter" post and then two of my friends beat me to it. So, here's three perspectives on how to push through the final weeks of winter. Most of the suggestions are geared toward the female reader.

Denise talked about approaching winter with the right attitude and some of the actions that can help make winter seem a bit more survivable. One of her suggestions is exercise & I heartily agree!

Amy came from a slightly different angle and made some great suggestions about freshening up the fashions of winter. Painting my nails is on the Saturday to-do list!

Some of my thoughts & suggestions:
  • Stop complaining about winter. I've found that people like to superficially connect through common unpleasant experiences and complaints, but is that pattern really building healthy relationships with others or instead creating an atmosphere of negativity? I'm not thinking of turning into Pollyanna or anything, but when engaging in small talk with others, trying to focus on connecting through common positive experiences and interests.
  • Laugh more!!! For quick laughs, I utilize YouTube, just search for something like "cat funny" or "whose line is it anyway" and you'll probably find something that will make your mouth turn up at the corners if not fall off your chair holding your stomach. If there's more time available, renting/checking out a season of a favorite sit-com is a good way to carve out relaxation time and probably get a good chuckle.
  • Exercise. Even if you must force yourself, you will be glad you did. Exercise releases endorphins in your brain which makes you feel happy! Plus, you will know that you got off your butt & did something!
  • Wear colors you feel confident in. I'm no fashion expert, but for me, wearing beige or gray makes me feel frumpy then my mind gets frumpy. Isaac Newton discovered this amazing thing called the spectrum (think Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon cover) that provides a full selection of amazing colors, all of which are represented in fashion.
  • Wear styles you feel confident in. Again, not a fashion expert, but I feel more positive when I know I look good. Right now, I'm relegating the baggy clothes & pj pants to Saturdays.
  • Start using all those lotions/soaps/potions you got for Christmas. Can't hurt!
  • Start spring cleaning early!
  • Crank the up-beat music!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

FAIL: eBay

Sorry to post two FAIL entries in a row. My life is going quite well at the moment, so I feel bad being Debbie Downer, but this one really was my own ignorance and I have learned much from the experience. Hopefully, this might help someone else avoid the same experience?

Last October after a stuff purge, I was inspired to try selling some of my things around town to hit the jackpot. Getting rid of stuff & making money off it, it's perfect! Here's that story. So this time around, I decided to try selling two items on eBay.

I listed my items, took pictures, wrote good descriptions, waited in agony for a week until the bidding was over, sold both items, figured out how to link PayPal with my eBay account, scoured my parent's basement for a proper shipping box, wrestled with a question, "Can a flag really fit in a manila envelope?" (which it can!), carefully wrapped each item and shipped them. I probably spent about three hours on this whole process. In the end, both items added together brought in $12.49. Shipping ended up being $9.06 providing me with a grand total profit of $3.43.

What I learned from the adventure:
  • Sell small things on eBay
  • Sell expensive things on eBay
  • Charge lots and lots of $ for shipping on eBay
  • I would much rather spend hours trying to save money than spend hours trying to make money
  • eBay is too much work unless it's your full-time job or you are just really good at it
Until I figure out a better way to make $ off my old stuff, I am just going to give it away!

Monday, February 15, 2010

FAIL: Pillow Shams

What is up with pillow shams anyway? I'll be honest, interior decorating is really not my thing. I have no concept of what goes together, what's in, what looks good, why we have certain items, etc. However, lately I have been trying to combine decorating with my dad's sage advice of "Don't own stuff you don't like" and switched my bedspread from a so-called Bohemian pattern that I feel "meh" about to my plain black bedspread from college that I like much much much better. However, by switching I created a bit of a problem: Bohemian pattern had pillow shams and my college bedspread doesn't.

Many questions ran through my head as I tried to process this decorating dilemma. What do pillow shams do? Do I really need pillow shams? What do I gain by pillow shams? Why are they called pillow shams? Who will benefit from me having pillow shams? Will anyone notice if I don't have pillow shams?

I decided I should check out the options available for these strange bedding items since a little research couldn't hurt. First stop, Tuesday Morning the discount housewares store. I entered, hoping to find the Holy Grail of pillow shams but at 60% less than their department store counterparts. I located the shams only to discover an important detail in the world of shams: there are TWO kinds, the Euro sham and the Standard sham. Euro: 26"x26", Standard: 20"x26". I'm glad they put the measurements on the packages, but this is getting complicated. Tuesday Morning creeps me out, so I tried to ponder quickly and chose a Standard beige linen sham. The next day, I returned it. I am going to slightly tweak my Dad's advice to include "Don't shop at stores you don't like."

Today I had the day off, so I checked out the selection at Wal-Mart since they have a new line of interior decorating items, again hoping for a cheap solution to my naked pillows. No good. The new line of decorating items was very embroidered, very flowery, very pastel-y, very not the right solution for me. My third and last stop on the sham quest was Kohl's. At Kohl's, the bedding, along with the signs declaring a SALE, attacks you from the tiny aisles. Somehow, the brands of "Park Avenue," "Chaps" and "Hannah Montana" didn't do much for me. I did find a bedding design by Daisy Fuentes that could have made my bedroom look like a cheap brothel, but sad day, they only had Euro shams. Once again I walked away empty handed.

Since then, I have decided to try life without pillow shams. When I did have them, all I did with them was move them every night & again every morning. My dog enjoyed them as a comfy nap surface, but she has other options available. I'm still not sure if I've failed at interior decorating because I'm lazy or if I've succeeded in uncomplicating another aspect of my life. I'm thinking I'll just postpone the shams until I need them. But that would involve figuring out what one actually needs shams for...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My "Is it spring yet?" Playlist

Music has been carrying me through since about November when the world turned monochromatic grayish-brown. Here's a sampling of what I've been listening to, maybe it will pep up your day too! These songs are great to bust a move to while folding laundry or cleaning. Not that I would know firsthand, because I'm far too mature, serious & focused to do anything like that, but, er, anywho...

For free listens, visit and search for any song. You can create spur-of-the-moment playlists from just about any song. It's free & they don't put any ads in the middle of your music!

So here goes, & please suggest any songs you've been hooked on this winter! Except anything by Miley Cyrus. You can keep those to your own laundry basket, I won't judge you.

Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing- Stevie Wonder
Hot Air Balloon- Owl City
It Might As Well Be Spring- Sophie Milman
Walking on Sunshine- Katrina & the Waves
Crosstown Traffic- Soulive
Dance Anthem of the 80s- Regina Spektor
Haven't Met You Yet- Michael Buble
(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To- Weezer
It's Oh So Quiet- Bjork
Sonshine- Take 6
Destiny- Zero 7

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Irrational Driving Fears

Irrational fears can get complicated. So here are my driving ones:
  1. Getting smashed by a hay bale
  2. Hitting a cow
  3. Having a sneezing attack
  4. Having my car infested by mice/cockroaches/spiders/snakes
  5. Hitting a very large bird (hawk, eagle, owl, etc.) with my windshield

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From Over Here to Over There

I get excited when I can help move an unused object into the hands of someone who needs it. Like today, a friend posted on Facebook that his TV broke last night and he was bummed since the Olympics are coming up. And then I remembered, my parents upgraded their TV last week & were looking to get rid of the old one, even mentioning they would give it away to someone.

So after checking with the parents, I gave their number to my friend and now he's getting their TV for free! Other reallocated items so far this year: laptop, Walkman, clothing, some music & books (and it's only February!). The straight-up giveaway is fantastic, but I really like being about to work out a swap. SO COOL. It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood books "Alvin's Swap Shop" by Clifford B. Hicks, but minus the sunken ship subplot. Alvin ran this awesome shop where no money was exchanged, just stuff traded. Anyway, this week I got a swap, all-natural face soap & goat cheese for teaching fitness classes!

There are several websites devoted to the swap/giveaway concepts like freecycle or the free section of craigslist, but it's kinda fun to be able to connect your friends with other friend's stuff. Plus with friends, you work on an as-needed basis instead of constantly feeling like you have to check a website. Viva la Swap! And go read Alvin's Swap Shop, even if you think you are too old for "kid's" books!

Tangent: Here are the pics of Chewbacca...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Thessalonian Simple Life

I ran across an interesting Bible verse this past weekend. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of others and so that you will not be dependent on anybody ." (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV).

Ok, the Thessalonians lived in like 50 AD. What could possibly make their lives complicated? No internet to surf, no phones to answer, no Facebook friends to stalk, no cars to break down, and no health insurance to figure out. Maybe their lives were as complicated as ours, just differently? Anyway, the principle still applies 2000 years later.

How does living a quiet life win the respect of others? I can see how people will respect others who aren't all up in their business and work to earn what they have, but living a quiet life? Is living a quiet life similar to living a simple life?

I believe most people in the world would like to lead a more simple, quiet life, but tend to cling to the things that make their lives more complicated. My life gets too complicated when I have too much stuff, too many things in my schedules, too many friends to balance, too many gadgets & websites to check and too many tasks I think I must complete. Basically, too many heeded calls from unessential sources lead to a "noisy", complicated life.

I do envy people who can simply ignore the calls from unessential parts of life. I have a friend who owns no iPod, no mp3 player and no CDs; he is perfectly happy with listening to the radio and whatever song happens to be playing at that moment. I asked him, "What if you really want to hear a particular song?" "Oh, I guess I never really do," he replied. "I'm good with whatever's on." I'm not going to make the transition to owning no music since I like & constantly use my 2005 iPod, and still have a major CD collection that takes up a lot of space (at my parent's house, mwahaha!). So for me, simplifying music might be a few steps down the road. I do have a lot of digital clutter on that iPod.

Much like I respect my friend for living without heeding the unessential pull of instant music-desire gratification, I think others have a respect for those who can "do without" in various areas of life and still live a full, happy existence. I might have to ponder on some of the Simple Life Suggestions from this list from Becoming Minimalist:
  • buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. stop trying to impress others with your stuff and start trying to impress them with your life.
  • reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. refuse to be a slave to anything: coffee, cigarettes, soda, television, chocolate, alcohol…
  • develop a habit of giving things away. most of us could get rid of half of our possessions without any serious sacrifice.
  • refuse to be propagandized by modern gadgetry. technology doesn’t always make your life simpler. as a matter of fact, most of the time it just makes your life more cluttered.
  • learn to enjoy things without owning them. ownership is nothing, access is everything.
  • develop a deeper appreciation for nature.
  • reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. bananas, coffee, etc.
  • never underestimate the freedom of plain, honest speech. a lack of simplicity in one area, such as speech, can undermine simplicity in every area.
One item I might add is "don't be afraid to say no" since I consistently overbook myself then get frustrated & anxious because "I don't have enough time!" But tonight I do have time, so I'm going to drink a large mug of tea and watch old episodes of Big Bang Theory, something the Thessalonians missed out on unfortunately.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stuff I Got Rid of This Weekend

Getting rid of stuff gives me the euphoric feeling that some women feel when shopping. But I always second-guess myself when cleaning out, so I have to do small amounts at a time. This weekend I eliminated:
  • about a ream of old paper stuff from my file cabinet
  • 6 CD's & a few books (and made $8.48 for selling them!)
  • the Spanish textbook I've had for 6 years, always intending to teach myself
  • several Bible study books I haven't looked at in several years (some people argue with getting rid of old Bible study notes, but I view it along the lines of getting rid of jr. high algebra notes, but I guess some people keep those too, I'm not judging you if you don't judge me)
  • 2 Red Cross "CPR in the Workplace" quick guides
  • items placed in garage sale/give away pile: picture frames, Walkman, Chewbacca action figure with crossbow, crazy-eye glasses
  • items for eBay: Luxembourg flag, European Union decorative scarf, red laptop case with monkeys inside (well pictures of monkeys, not actual monkeys)
If you want anything in the garage sale/give away/eBay categories, lemme know. I'll give it to you, and even ship it if shipping is a reasonable price (like < $5).

I'm going to try something new with some of my paper documents that are memorabilia, scanning! I don't really need to have the copy of the 2005 Cornhusker Marching Band Service Award, but I want to remember that in 2005, I was kinda spiffy for a bit. Slowly but surely, I will whittle down my stuff!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Simplicity: Letting Go of Unnecessary

One of the biggest aids to simplicity of life is letting go of pointless & unhelpful thoughts. These types of thoughts distract us from enjoying the fullness of life around us and plague our minds with empty trivialities that just plain don't matter. A few tracks of thought come to mind from my own life as being particularly absorbing, controlling & really unnecessary.
  • Judging other people
  • Criticizing unessential details
  • Worrying
  • Playing worst-case-scenario
  • Over-analyzing
  • Over-preoccupying about unessential details
My dad's motto for 2010 is "Live positively." So instead of a head full of negativity go with: "Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, if there is any virtue and anything praiseworthy, think about these things." Philippians 4:8 (paraphrased a bit by me)
Maybe a good test is, "Is there anything good about what I'm thinking? No excuses or justifications!" It definitely isn't easy to consider the goodness of each thought, but I guess there are plenty of thoughts to practice on.

In my own life, sometimes stepping out of negativity can be quite difficult, especially recently. I'm on a serious acne medication right now that includes "depression" as one of the side effects. I'm usually a positive person, so dealing with that particular side effect has been quite interesting since it manifests itself as negativity & extreme frustration. It doesn't rear its ugly head often, but when it does, I typically need several hours before I can stop obsessing about whatever detail set me off & think as a normal, rational person.

My mitigation effort came from an unusual source, a healthy lifestyle challenge at work. Part of the Game On challenge is choosing one bad habit you would like to break & my bad habit is giving in to negativity. Knowing that I'll be letting my team down by getting angry or frustrated & taking it out on some unknowing, completely innocent friend is extra motivation for me to identify when I'm starting to get frustrated and be able to process the situation before I do or say something stupid. In the last 4 weeks or so, I have been able to work through certain frustrations much better than before, but there's still plenty of work to be done. Keeping my thoughts positive & rejecting unnecessary thoughts is definitely part of that! And hopefully I'll be off this acne med in 3-4 months and I can return to my normal, positive self!

Homemade No-Bake Granola Bars

Once upon a time, I found this recipe online while being mad at the grocery store for charging such crazy prices for a box of 10 granola bars made with high fructose corn syrup. I like know about the ingredients that go into my food, and I loved the options available with making your own food. I don't have to put in HFCS! I can use whatever kind of peanut butter I want! I can add, reduce or leave out the chocolate chips or raisins!

The one portion of the recipe I really miss the boat of healthy, natural eating though is the cereal. I like Cocoa Krispies. I like Cocoa Puffs. I eat them, and I like them. However, this is a flexible recipe so just about any kind of cereal can be used, even the no-sugar-high-fiber-organic hay some try to pass as cereal. But don't diss me & my Lucky Charms for now. If/when I have kids, they will probably be eating no-sugar-high-fiber-organic hay with organic soy milk and I will have my box of Chocolate Chex safely hidden in the pantry for late-night treats.

I don't know if these are technically healthy since they still use quite a bit of sugar, but they're really tasty! A 9x13 pan goes very quickly...

No-Bake Granola Bars

2 1/2 c crisp rice cereal (I've used normal rice cereal, chocolate rice cereal & cocoa puffs. Chocolate rice cereal is my fav)
a bit less than 2 c uncooked quick-cooking oats

1/2 c raisins

1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 c light corn syrup

1/2 c peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c milk chocolate morsels (I don't use these since the mix is already quite sweet)

Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl; set aside. Bring brown sugar and syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until blended.

Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in chocolate morsels if you decide to use them. Press mixture firmly into a 13x9-inch pan; cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.