Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Farewell

After two and a half years, the time has come for me to transition out of blogging. In the beginning, my goal was to simplify my life to pave the way for graduate school. Now that I've completed the first year of graduate school, I'm so glad I started the journey! Not only have I decluttered, cut back on things, and simplified my life, I have enjoyed sharing my adventures, lessons, and fails.

So why quit now? I am quite busy with graduate school. Due to work, studying, and everything else in life, I haven't had time to focus on writing. This was probably evident from the lack of frequency and, yes I'll admit it, in a decrease in quality over the last 6-12 months. Thus, it's time to move forward! I'm leaving the blog online, but won't be adding any new entries. If I decide to blog again, it will probably be about a different topic, thus I'll start something anew.

So thank you for reading! I hope you've at least been entertained, if not inspired to simplify some part of life. If you're interested in reading more about minimalism, decluttering, and simplifying, here are some of the blogs I enjoy:

Links to Uncomplication Project Articles:

Most Popular Posts:
  1. Happy Mother's Day! Please pass the Mr. Collins
  2. Homemade Granola
  3. Lumberjack Heroines? (skewed result because I talked about The Hunger Games, whatever)
  4. Simple Things to Simplify: Clothing
  5. FAIL: Attempted Purse Minimalism

My Favorite Recipes:

My Favorite Posts:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview: Denise

Today's mini-minimalist interview is with Denise. Denise blogs over at Musings and Ponderings from the Blunderosa. I met Denise through cardio-kickboxing.

So… I have a tendency towards random ponders.  Kristen flattered me in asking for my ponders on minimalism, Thanks, Kristen!  

My name is Denise.  I am a Social Worker, wife, mother, outdoor adventurer, volunteer and several other adjectives.  I have been married for almost 25 years this year.  We live in the “wilderness” of Northeast Kansas.  It is gorgeous country to me and I love living here.  My wonderful husband, Marcus, designed our home.  We live here with our awesome son, Marek, who is 13 years old.  I love the outdoors and enjoy gardening, hiking, wogging, kayaking, camping, motorcycling and a few indoor things as well!  I also love listening to Marcus and Marek play music and talk baseball.  

I think minimalism applies to all of life – possessions, habits, scheduling, goal setting etc.  I love the idea of minimizing possessions and would happily minimize several gajillion as well as a few habits, however, when you are in a family you must compromise!!  The idea of minimalism is likely implemented more effectively when you are single, newly married or have talked minimalism over thoroughly to determine how you each stand on the issue.  The desire to minimize also appears to suddenly kick in when you are planning to move or retire!  

Our family has succeeded in compromising on possessions for the most part.  I am less sentimental than the guys.  They each have long memories and tend towards the nostalgic.  Sometimes this is frustrating to me and my heartlessness towards nostalgia is frustrating to them!  It is an active process to compromise for the good of our living space.  

 We are a very active family.   Marek participates in a wide variety of activities and so do we.  We balance our individual activities and our family activities.  For Marcus and me, much of our time is spent on Marek’s activities.  From academics at school to 4H meetings and church activities, we support, encourage, sponsor, coach, lead, transport and hang out with Marek and his friends.  We enjoy all of these activities with him and for him.  We work to minimize and manage the schedule so that we have family time and so that we each have time for our individual interests and hobbies.  We also try to fit in some couple time.  

The thing is, I love being busy with things that I love doing.  Usually the guys feel the same.  The big trick for me is not necessarily to minimize, but to manage our interests and activities.  It’s hard because even doing things you love can become a serious drag without down time or “free choice” time, time to go with the flow.  THIS randomly brings me to my other random thoughts about life!

I think that the MOST important thing is attitude!  A positive attitude that is!  It seems so simplistic but seriously, staying positive about pretty much everything makes it all better!  Minimize doing things that you don’t like to do if possible.  Everything else deserves a positive attitude.  After all, we have all chosen to do the things we do and to have the things we have.  If you don’t like it, you can change it!  If you don’t like it and can’t change it then change your attitude about it!  If the change involves compromise then be willing!  Cultivate a positive attitude about it and all those involved.  This sounds simple, but of course, it is difficult to stay positive when things get tough.  It is hard work but it’s worth it.  I refuse to go through life disgruntled, dissatisfied or unhappy with my usual fare.  If at all possible, stay focused on the good things in your life and minimize those things that aren’t working.  Having a positive attitude about things in your life will make a difference and will impact the others in your life.   Perhaps this is my form of minimalism, I am working to minimize negativism and to embrace the positive.  And you know what?  It really works!! 

Caveat:  Negativism is not the same as sadness.  It doesn’t minimize the standard range of emotions. You still feel negative emotions but you choose a positive response to these feelings instead of allowing yourself to go down the path of negativity.  Just say no to malicious gossip, selfishness, anger and revenge!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview: Kristine

Today's Mini Minimalist Interview features Kristine from Utah.
  1. What is your current living situation?
    Family house

  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
    I think of simplicity and outdoor living.  Reducing clutter. Donating unused belongings. Cutting back on purchases. Setting priorities. Borrowing books at the library. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Taking a walk in the springtime. Visiting the local farm. Participating in a trail running race, the kind without expos.

  3. What about daily life can be stressful? What do you like about daily life?
    Commuting. Enough said. 
    I enjoy spending time with family and friends, running, and teaching students.

  4. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
    My favorite hobbies are hiking, trail running, spending time with family, reading, listening to music, and photography. I enjoy organizing photos and collecting postcards, as reminders of fun trips!

  5. What are some of your most prized possessions?
    Family photos and race medals. The photos are memories of special family times while the medals are reminders to keep working hard when the going gets tough.

  6. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize"?
    I’d like to minimize and organize emails. I cannot keep up with all the work and personal emails in my inbox! Also, I’d like to donate extra clothes, limit media (web surfing, television), and cancel catalog mail.

  7. Any other thoughts?
    I highly recommend the Four-Hour Work Week book by Timothy Ferriss. This book provides helpful tips on the journey toward minimalism, since I have not arrived at the destination yet! Just note the disclaimer that not all the principles may apply to service professions!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview: Joyce

Today's Mini Minimalist Interview features Joyce from Lawrence, Kansas. Joyce is.......... my mother!

I really wouldn’t say that I am a full blown minimalist (stark home, only ten hangers in the closet),
however, I feel like I am increasingly becoming a person who wants to be surrounded by less. I don’t
want a museum, I don’t need to be stocked and ready for every situation, and I like the mental and
physical breathing room of open space. I don’t want my “stuff” to ultimately limit my portability, my
time, my resources and my availability either to God or to people.

When we had a house full of children, it was easy to “blame” excess and acquisition on our kids. As
empty nesters, we find ourselves as being the point where the buck stops. Each of our children DOES
seem to have an ample stash left in our home that they supposedly will claim “someday”, but this is
reasonably well contained. My husband and I have felt the liberty, however, to divest ourselves of many
items that were more useful in a different season of life. (Yes, we have kept the Barbies, the Legos and
the other classic toys that our grandkids will enjoy!)

I have tried over the last few years to make various changes to reduce and simplify the excess baggage
that has piled up. I’m not a Feng Shui person, but one time a friend who is a practitioner told me that
her cardinal rule is to surround yourself with things you love and that make you happy, and to not feel
the least bit bad about parting with the rest. Good advice. Example: Knitting sets off my tendinitis –
why keep a giant box of yarn and a full array of needles and patterns?

The benefits have been clear to me. When I clean out the excess, it becomes easier to access what I
need. There’s less to maintain. I no longer feel guilt pangs about not eating/using/wearing items that
I never liked. Time for them to go into the trash, or into the hands of someone who would like them. I
find myself desiring less, because I am happy with what I currently have.

My best success at moving forward is with setting small attainable goals. I can sift through a closet, a
shelf, or an area. Results are quickly visible, and the task doesn’t take an overwhelming amount of time.

I read somewhere that typical Blog readers are looking for voyeuristic intimate secrets. And now for a
few deep dark revelations regarding my “no guilt” kitchen purge -
  • You know those cookbooks that only have one go-to recipe? I’ve copied off those single recipes to file in a notebook and donated the cookbooks to the library book sale.
  • Since doing Weight Watchers, our eating habits have radically changed and I’ve eliminated cookbooks that are simply vehicles for consuming cheese, cream soups, and various forms of fat.
  • Time to revisit the stack of recipes I’d clipped from a magazine or printed from the internet. Save or toss? Most got tossed.
  • I cleaned out my cupboards, pantry and freezer of anything that was expired, overlooked or had been around for more than a year. I got rid of all the spices that were more than 18 months old. I was embarrassed and horrified by how much I tossed. I’m now shopping smarter, utilizing what I have, and wasting less. Fresh is so much better.
No, I’m not ready to get down to nothing but the bare bones, as I love creature comforts and items that
bring pleasant memories. However, it has been good to learn that I can enjoy those things even MORE
when I’m actually surrounded by LESS.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview: Alicia

Today's Mini Minimalist Interview is with Alicia from Kansas City. Alicia and I were born in the same hospital three days apart, met five years later and have been friends ever since! We were roommates for several years recently until she got married:
  1. What is your current living situation?
    Married in an apartment

  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
    Getting rid of crap you don't need/want

  3. What about daily life can be stressful? What do you like about daily life?
    Cleaning up clutter around the house/having a lot of things to do making my day really busy to the point of no breathing. Getting a good night's rest the night before and feeling like I have some important tasks to achieve and then feeling good at the end of the day that I achieved all or most of them.

  4. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
    Teaching fitness classes/reading/hanging out with friends. And I don't collect anything.

  5. What are some of your most prized possessions?
    My downtime, free time, my husband ;)

  6. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize"?
    I would like to be not so busy but currently I like the things I'm doing and feel like life is for the most part balanced.

  7. Any other thoughts?
    I definitely like the idea of minimizing stuff and living a more simple life. Jeff and I don't have cable or even bunny ears right now. We do have Netflix and I just like not having to HAVE to watch a show at a certain time. It's very freeing. Plus I just think that there isn't much that I want to watch on TV.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview: Britt

Today's Mini Minimalist Interview features Britt from Lawrence, Kansas. I met Britt through Cassy (April 2nd's interviewee). Britt blogs over at Snapurly:
  1. What is your current living situation?
    I currently live in a house. Having lived in a dorm, three apartments, a townhouse, and two houses during my adult life, the house is by far my favorite residence. It is bigger than the rest (always helpful for those nights you have friends over for game/movie night or want to be home but not around your roommate and their significant other during their date night); you can enjoy the pleasure of having your own yard; and you do not have to use the cable and utility providers that are forced upon you in a more communal setting. However, a house is also the worst for a minimalist. There are more spaces (basement, garage, extra closets, cabinets, possibly sheds) to hide your stuff and mask the fact that you are a maximumist.

  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
    Before a couple of years ago, the first thing that I would think of when I heard minimalist was someone who was either a nomad or had nomad-like tendencies. They didn't have a lot because they 1) didn't have a lot of money and 2) were constantly moving for one reason or another. However, I have altered my definition in recent years. Now, I consider a minimalist someone who is not materialistic. They are disciplined enough to only purchase what they need and nothing else.

  3. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
    One of the primary ways I display my maximumist ways is my DVD and book collections. I love a good story and because of this accumulated a nice bunch of each over the years. Instead of going to the library to borrow a book I desired to read, I bought it from the store. Instead of renting from the video store, I purchased the movie from a retail store. Even after several trips to Hastings to sell some books and DVD's, I still have an above average collection of both mediums in my possession.

  4. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize"?
    I would like to minimize two things in my life: the amount of stuff I own and the amount of time I spend on things that are not value-added. I come from two parents who I love but skew towards the "packrat" end of the spectrum. It is no surprise, then, that I have a similar habit myself. It always amazes me, and will amaze me in a few months once more, that whenever I move, I have a lot of stuff? I don't recall getting all of it, but yet there it is in front of me. What's worse, I don't recall using over half of it in the past month or two! If I don't need it, then what's the point of having it? I also desire to cut out the time I spend on things that are frankly, time wasters. There is nothing wrong with sitting down and watching a TV show or reading a book. But if I am watching 2-4 hours of TV a night, or spending all evening reading only fiction novels, that is taking away from things that could help me grow as a person: exercising, reading my Bible, getting tasks done around the house, developing relationships with friends and family, etc. This is not always the case with me, but let's say it occurs more frequently than I would like.

  5. Any other thoughts?
    One last thought on maximumism. In my opinion there is a direct correlation between being a maximumist and debt. As I look around and take an inventory of my stuff, all I see are dollar signs. I have wasted so much money buying things that I wanted but didn't need. Now, those things just sit around gathering dust and even if I sell them, will make back only a small percentage of what I paid for it. I have learned my lesson and am in the midst of paying off the debt currently on my books but what really irks me is that it did not have to be that way. I have a couple of friends who would most certainly qualify as minimialists and guess what? They are both debt free. There is no greater motivation to working towards becoming a minimalist than to be in the same position they are right now.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mini Minimalist Inteview: Laura

Today's Mini Minimalist Interview features my friend Laura from Lawrence, Kansas. I've known Laura as long as I can remember!
  1. What is your current living situation?
    Single, living in my parent's house

  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
    Reducing the amount of items (physical possessions or events or activities) in at least one area of your life.

  3. What about daily life can be stressful? What do you like about daily life?
    Meeting deadlines because I failed to plan ahead enough, or leave on time. I like how flexible and different my schedule is each day.  I have a different class schedule each day, some days I get to sleep in, take a nap in the afternoon, or lately I have been able to spend the day outside when it is nice (rather than having to be inside an office building all day).

  4. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
    My biggest hobby is traveling. My flexible schedule allows me to take long weekends trips to visit friends and family around the country.  I get to travel more extensively and internationally during my long summer breaks.

    I would say that Facebook is another one of my hobbies.  If I am on my computer (which is very often) I will almost always have Facebook pulled up.  I like being up to date on what is going on in my friends' lives.

    I don't think I collect anything....I used to collect a lot of cow stuff and interesting looking glass bottles but those both resulted in me having so many little things around my room that I stopped that years ago :)

  5. What are some of your most prized possessions?
    I love the pictures that I have on my computer and in hard copy. I also love to have hard copies of books that I really like.

  6. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize"?
    I should minimize my Tshirt collection. I have multiple drawers of Tshirts, most of which I collected throughout high school and college.  I do not wear a ton of Tshirts anymore but every time I go to clean out the drawers, each shirt is associated with an event or memory and I can't make myself give it away.

  7. Any other thoughts?
    Over the last three years I have been successful in consciously minimizing one area of my life - my activities.  I am proud that I have learned how to "say no" and not pack an over amount into my weekly schedule.  When I am tempted to fill an open time slot in my week, I try to remember how wonderful it is to have that extra time to do my work or just take a moment to relax.  I hope that I will never go back to being one of those people who choose to fill up their schedule so that they are living in a constantly frazzled state of mind.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview: Carol

This week's Mini Minimalist Interview features Carol from Oskaloosa, Kansas. I met Carol through cardio-kickboxing fitness classes:
  1. What is your current living situation?
    Built and own a single family house on 20 acres in a somewhat economically depressed county.

  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
    The opposite of excessive or ostentatious - beautiful in simplicity and functionality.  Functional being the best item (not necessarily the cheapest) for its purpose, more not being better.

  3. What about daily life can be stressful? What do you like about daily life?
    Since the majority of my time seems to be taken up by my job - most of the stress is the constant requests for help.  Fortunately, the most enjoyable thing is being able to help.  Being in a job that can double as service to people is very rewarding. Living in the country away from people can balance it out.

  4. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
    Sewing, gardening, reading & healthy cooking. I have a large collection of vintage drapery fabric, clothing and doilies. Also vintage Fiestaware dishes.

  5. What are some of your most prized possessions?
    The above collections plus my iPad and iPhone. These being tools of 2 different career paths.  Though maintaining all the right tools in order to do a job can be stressful as in "I have 3 sewing machines, why am I not making more clothes, gifts, etc." 

  6. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize"?
    After being the recipient of a lot of stuff from older relatives downsizing their households, I have gained a lot of stuff I like, but never thought of acquiring in the first place.  This is cautionary - by accepting items that someone else owned for a long time, you take on that responsibility and history. This makes the items very hard to get rid of.  Just because people remember who sat on your sofa in 1925 & it is a very beautiful piece & they don't make them like that anymore does not mean it is anywhere near comfortable (meaningful, but not functional).  On the other hand, ending up with a bunch of miscellaneous stuff lets me sell on eBay and create a PayPal "mad money" account that I can use to turn around and buy something I really like. 

  7. Any other thoughts?
    Finding functional, well made, affordable items in America is tough. Getting rid of items in America is tougher. Anyone interested in a vintage mahogany piano that does not hold a tune well? 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Elsewhere on the Interwebs

There's a great series this week on Becoming Minimalist of minimalism stories. Here's Monday's. All are good reads!

Another article I ran across details another day in a couple's journey to declutter. One things that struck me about this article in particular was the occurrence of the past tense for describing items instead of the present tense. Shouldn't we describe the items in our homes & offices with the present tense, meaning we use them on a regular basis?

And on a completely non-minimalist tangent, here's a really cool map (originally shared by the Everyday Minimalist) showing whether it seems better to buy or rent based on economic statistics & geography. If you mouse over the dots, a pop up will show the city and stats.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mini Minimalist Interview #1: Cassy

Welcome to the first edition of Mini Minimalist Interviews! Featured today is my friend Cassy from Lawrence, KS. Cassy was one of my first friends in public high school after I was homeschooled for five years:
  1. What is your current living situation?
    I currently live in a home with my husband, cat, and dog.  We have a small (1200 sq. foot) three bedroom home.  It's bigger than most apartments I've lived in!

  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
    I think "minimalism" means living with what you need and not excess.  For me, I try to live in a clutter free home.  We have a rule that if something hasn't been used in a year, it gets pitched.  This includes clothes, movies, whatever.  It seems like too many people in America live like hoarders, with stuff strewn everywhere.  I personally would like to have less stuff.  

  3. What about daily life can be stressful? What do you like about daily life? 
    In our culture daily life can mean a lot: work, school, activities, hobbies, health, eating, keeping up with relationships, and whatever you want to squeeze in there.  Our lives are complex and rapidly adapting to changes.  This naturally leads to stress.  I work in a hospital critical care setting so some some days I am truly dealing with emergencies back to back.  But for my most part I feel like life is rewarding.  We get out of life what we put in.  If you don't like your current situation, you have the power to change it. 

  4. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
    I prefer the term "interests."  I am interested in being healthly - so for me that includes jogging, elliptical training, walking my dog, and eating whole foods.  I have an interest in the arts - indie music, painted art, and anything design-wise thats unique.  I wish I could paint but unfortunately I have not been blessed with that talent so I joyfully observe it.  Lastly I have an interest in my actual job - the science behind how our bodies and specific therapies work.  I have three critical care journals I read.  If I have a specific interest in a topic, I look up what I want to know on a couple of online medical databases I have access to.  

    As far as collections, I honestly hate them.  Collections in my mind equal junk.  If I'm not using something in my house, I want it thrown out.  However, if I'm being totally honest, I do have a "collection" of seasonal decor.  It does get used yearly though so it still fits my lifestyle.

  5. What are some of your most prized possessions?
    I would like to think that if my house was burning down to the ground, I would just want to make sure I grab my pets, my mac (my beloved computer with everything I've ever worked on), and my phone.  Anything else could truly be replaced.  I do, however, love my comfortable temperpedic bed and any comfortable yet fashionable clothing item.  I'm learning I'd rather have a few really awesome items rather than a lot of junk that I don't really care for.

  6. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize"?
    The biggest thing I'd like to minimize in my life is TV.  In the past two years I have watched more TV than I have in my life.  The male gender is particularly fond of sports, which requires a cable package.  Unfortunately this leads to a lot of wasted, unhealthy amount of time sitting in front of a TV.  It's something I keep an open dialogue with my husband about.  

    The second thing I need to minimize is work.  I have an unhealthy edge to the term workaholic.  I like whatever I do to be done well.  Unfortunately in a salaried job that leads to a lot of extra hours spent working on things most would walk away from.  

  7. Any other thoughts?
    Mostly I think Americans as a whole tend to try to cram a lot in their lives.  We want to do everything and own everything.  Not only is it unhealthy, but it's unrealistic.  I also think there is so much value it digitalizing what we do own - magazines, books, movies.  We have an opportunity to not be so wasteful of paper and other products in our lives.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Weekly Series: A Monday Mini Minimalist Interivew

Over the past month, I've been email interviewing a few of my family & friends to get their thoughts on minimalism & simplicity. After spending the last few years writing about my own experiences pursuing simplicity and reading other minimalism blogs, I wanted to get the thoughts and opinions of others who don't necessarily consider themselves part of the minimalist community.

I have really enjoyed reading what people have to say, and I hope you do too! I'll be publishing every Monday until I run out of answers. This is an open series, so if you'd like to be featured as well, please let me know in the comments and we'll work something out. I have a basic list of questions as a guide although some contributors preferred sharing their thoughts in paragraph form. Here are the questions generally covered:
  1. What is your current living situation? (ex. living single in an apartment, family in house)
  2. What do you think of when you think of "minimalism"?
  3. What about daily life can be stressful? What do you like about daily life?
  4. What are some of your hobbies? Do you collect anything?
  5. What are some of your most prized possessions?
  6. What are one or two things about life you'd like to "minimize" (activities, stuff, whatever, it's open)?
  7. Any other thoughts?
 I'll be starting this Monday. Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

In Which I Discover My Sense of Entitlement

Giving up Facebook and alcohol simultaneously has been an excellent exercise in self-control for those specific things. It has been hard, but doable; however, the part that has been the most disturbing is that now, while I don't necessarily crave checking Facebook or a nice, cold Michelob Ultra while watching Jayhawk basketball, something in my mind keeps saying "Indulge me! You deserve it!" I haven't been able to figure out what part of the brain this is, but it manifests itself as entitlement.

This part of my brain tells me that since I'm giving up these chosen things, I can instead indulge in XY&Z other things. This part of my brain is telling me that since I disturbed the balances of vices in my life by giving things up, I should definitely look into other vices like pop, buying crap I don't need (see February, I already tried to work on that one! It came back! Ack!), and "treating myself" to crap food. Practically speaking, I have purchased more sugary items from convenience stores during the month of March than I have in a really, really long time.

And so I discovered I am an entitled person. These things such as extra pop, sweets, etc. are neither wants nor needs. They are simply entitlements. I "deserve" more pop since I'm not drinking alcohol. I "deserve" to be able to snack on way too many Starburst Jelly Beans at work since I can't check Facebook. I "deserve" to eat fried food and/or get an extra serving of dessert's Monday and I can't have a glass of wine or check Facebook! How messed up is that?

I'm supposed to be mentally transcending above the plain of wants and needs! I'm supposed to be placidly raking my rock garden of zen-like self-discipline. I'm supposed to be the white, female, Midwestern version of this guy:

So for the month of April, I thought about giving up sweets or pop, but I think I'm going to give up "caving to entitlements". In practice, this will be mean carefully considering what I am purchasing and what goes into my body with the following questions:
  1. Do I need this?
  2. Do I want this?
  3. Do I just feel entitled to this?
This will involve a lot more thought than the black and white lines of alcohol or Facebook. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Giving Stuff Up: Mid-Month Update

So I'm in the middle of giving up Facebook for March & alcohol for Lent. I'll be honest, this is harder than I thought it'd be!

Facebook: I feel like I'm missing something. I know I'm not missing anything, but I feel like I am. I shouldn't care about cat pictures, TMI statements, random thoughts on March Madness, or what somebody went shopping for today. I know that. But somehow, "voyeurism" got added to Maslow's hierarchy of needs for the 21st century. I also miss status updates as an outlet for my own witty, observational remarks like "Working at the geological survey, I can't tell the personal style difference between geologists, international students, and hipsters." I would have at least three people like that! I almost broke down & joined Twitter to get my social media fix, but I decided that would be cheating.

So I am learning that I do not indeed need Facebook to survive. I am also learning that Facebook creates pressure for each individual to have an audience. The pressure exists to keep your audience happy & interested. Instead, I am having the joy of keeping observations to myself. Honestly, only two out of my 376 Facebook friends have contacted me to ask why I wasn't on Facebook. "My audience" does not miss me.

Alcohol: Also harder than I thought. I enjoy having a cold beer every so often. I enjoy getting together with friends for Happy Hour and a glass of house red. Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, which we all know is the American's celebration of the day St. Ignacio killed on the snakes in Mexico (not original material), and it'd be nice to have a Guinness. Instead, I'll be celebrating by being DD. At least I know my friends will get home safely!

But I must keep my eye on the bigger picture. These things are supposed to be hard! Why would I give up something that's easy? It's a personal test, and I will persevere. Only a few more weeks! Can't cave now!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Simplified Shopping Experience?

If you hadn't heard, jcpenney (as it now is referred to I guess) redid their marketing strategy and pricing scheme. Instead of offering sales, coupons, events, blowouts, pre-sale events, specials, and other black magic to attract customers, they cut prices 40% across the board. And they decided to go ahead & call $19.99....$20. They'll save so much ink!

Even though I haven't been a regular jcpenney customer, when I heard about this, something inside me relaxed. It was like a sigh of relief. As a consumer, I want to get the best price on an item, but when it takes lots of effort and research to figure out what combination of sale, coupon, discount, and Groupon it takes to get the best deal, I feel stressed. Some people enjoy that kind of hunt. I don't. I might be more interested in shopping at jcpenney these days.

Now if someone could just simplify the travel industry...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Baking cookies is one of my favorite, and most relaxing, activities. Ever since I was little, I've loved it! Fortunately, I've surrounded myself with people who like to eat cookies. I like normal cookies; I'm not really into the fancy ones with lots of fancy ingredients, crazy steps, rolling, refrigerating, etc.

The recipe I made this weekend is from the More With Less cookbook. It's not complicated, uses normal ingredients, and is really, really tasty!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cream together:
  • 1 cup shortening (recipe says you may use half margarine & half lard, but I'll be honest, I've never cooked with lard. It seems scary & potentially high in cholesterol.)
  • 1/4 c peanut butter
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 t soda
  • 1/2 t salt (I left it out since I used butter flavored shortening)
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • 1-2 c chocolate chips
Mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet (I didn't grease mine. They turned out fine.) Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.

Makes 6-8 dozen. I halved the recipe since I am not baking for a large family, Canadian lumberjacks, or Kenyan runners.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Real Life

Every now and then, I really appreciate the concept of "real life." Sometimes, I feel like life is divided into two categories: the FANTASTIC and the DRAMA. I could blame it on culture, the media, Pinterest and Facebook, but honestly, it's just how we as people like to work. We like sensational!

We don't like to face the reality that most of life is fairly mundane and that sometimes we really screw things up.

This is why the little victories in life are somehow inflated to grand proportions, and we live in some kind of imaginary world where everything is picture perfect. On the flip side, little mishaps or mistakes suddenly become overly dramatic, or even worse, our mistakes are twisted and blamed on someone else so we don't have to accept responsibility.

My real life is:
  • Buckling down to get done what needs to get done because it just needs to get done
  • Spending a good chunk of my weekend studying. It was gorgeous outside :(
  • Spending a few hours cleaning to procrastinate on studying
  • Taking a picture of the cookies I baked even though I don't have a fancy camera or really care about the lighting & presentation of my kitchen
  • Apologizing for snapping at Nolan. He did absolutely nothing to deserve being snapped at.
  • Sitting in a hoodie under my favorite blanket blogging & listening to Sting
  • Eagerly awaiting the Frickin Good Chicken that Nolan is grilling :)
  • Still struggling a bit with not being on Facebook...
But soon to come.....the recipe for the cookies. With my real life picture!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March: Giving Up

March starts the month of giving up Facebook. It's only been one day, and it's a little bit hard! To ensure I won't/can't cheat, I had a trusted friend change my password before deactivating my account. She won't give it back to me until April 1. Sigh.

I didn't realize how many times I was checking Facebook during the day (30 seconds here & there, supposedly) while at work. I didn't realize how much of a crutch it was. When stuck with a problem & unsure how to proceed, I'd usually just check Facebook for a quick mental break before diving back in. Unfortunately, checking one social networking site usually spawns tangents. And tangents spawn tangents.

"Hello Facebook! Oooh, someone is on vacation! I want to go on a vacation. Let me look up cheap vacations. But then I might need a new swim suit. Ooooh! Look at the swim suits on sale at Land's End! I wonder if they're selling any winter coats? But what about new high heels? I remember there being some cute ones on Pinterest! Why does Pinterest kinda suck? Stop posting about babies, weddings, and Mason jars! I wonder if so-and-so's wedding pics are up on Facebook. Hey! Someone is on vacation!"

Yep. It's terrible.

But I'm happy to admit I was pretty dang productive at work today since I was forced to be FOCUSED. "Focus" isn't really a virtue of the 21st century yet. Everybody's ADD is highly encouraged with up-to-the-second everything and endless streams of new digital information (Twitter, FB, Pinterest, blogs, etc.), but none of it is meant to really stick. It's like intending to soak in a hot tub, but continually diving in to white water rapids thinking it will have the same relaxing effect.

Maybe March will be the "hot tub" for my internet brain so I can relax & focus a bit?

And also on the plus side, it being March means I can buy clothes again!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not Another Lent Blog!

Originally, I had a great Lent blog planned since for the first time, I'm giving up something. I already told about giving up buying clothes for the month of February, and over drinks with friends last week, I decided to try giving up something each month for the rest of the year as an experiment. On the chopping block so far- Facebook, meat, pop, jeans (so hard!). For other months, I might add a goal like going running three times a week or reading for 30 minutes at least 4 times a week. I have some more brainstorming to do on this, I'll keep you posted. My goal for the project is to set and accomplish short-term goals for personal growth without seriously affecting anyone else's life in the process (for example giving up my car for a month and needing to bum rides off everyone for everything).

And then my boyfriend (who actually is Catholic) told me he was giving up alcohol for Lent. I decided to tack that on since I'm giving up random somethings this year anyway, I might as well give up alcohol for Lent for moral support. I hadn't originally thought of including alcohol as a give-up for 2012 (maybe because I was very much enjoying a glass of wine at the time I was chatting with friends), but hey, 40 days isn't that long. I'm not a raging alcoholic or anything, but I do like to enjoy a few drinks a week.

So then I was REALLY planning a great Lent blog on the virtues of self-denial and self-discipline when I read "The Opportunity of Lent" from Becoming Minimalist. It's great. It just hits the nail on the head.

It put me in my place that the first "opportunity" of Lent is to learn humility. I quoth- "It is a humbling exercise to battle controlling influences in our lives. We are forced to stand face-to-face with our weaknesses and our humanity. And whether we win or lose over the course of the forty days, even the intensity of the struggle supplies profound humility."

It's not a time to go parading around what we're giving up or that we just happen to be doing great at it. If we can do that, it means we picked something that wasn't a controlling influence on our life in the first place.

The other "opportunity" that struck me was developing empathy. I am not naturally a very empathetic person. When other people struggle with any number of things (addiction, overeating, little initiative, etc.), I tend to respond with an attitude similar to "Just get over it already!!!" This is neither kind nor encouraging to the person struggling. By struggling through a challenge myself, I might (hopefully?) develop a kinder attitude to others.

The one "opportunity" I'd add to Becoming Minimalist's list is forced creativity. By giving up alcohol, I will probably branch out in to some other beverages I wouldn't otherwise drink. On nights I might usually drink a glass of wine, I might opt for a glass of warm cider or soy milk. One of my favorite Happy Hour locations makes their own ginger ale and root beer, but I haven't tried those yet since I'm usually ordering something alcoholic. For the month I'll be giving up meat, I'll have to get creative with some new recipes. For the month I'm giving up jeans (yikes! scary!), I'm going to have to get REALLY creative with my wardrobe.

So there's my Lent blog. You should probably read Becoming Minimalist's Lent blog for a more philosophical & challenging take :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crockpot Beer Chicken

It all started several weeks ago when my boyfriend Nolan & I went grocery shopping and noticed packages of sweet rub chicken drums & thighs for $.99 a pound. Since that's a pretty good price for chicken, we bought three pounds. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it, but eventually decided to toss it in my crockpot with a random can of American Light beer I had in my fridge.

That's the recipe. Put some chicken in a crockpot with beer & cook it on low for 10-12 hours. It's delicious. Straight out of the crockpot, it's like butter. It falls off the bone, it's all drippy & tender, yeah...

And when chicken is on sale, you can't beat cooking $3 worth of chicken with a 50 cent can of beer for multiple chicken servings. Yep, when chicken is cheap, you can't beat the price.

Speaking cheap chicken, over the next week, Nolan decided this was an excellent price for chicken and bought nine more 3 lbs packs. 10 packs X 3 lbs each = 30 lbs of chicken. We've had a lot of crockpot beer chicken lately. This is okay, because it's seriously good and very versatile. We've had wraps, enchiladas, tortilla soup, and chicken & bean soup just to name a few.

It lends well to theme and variations.

Theme- a tortilla, chicken, some lettuce/spinach/sprouts/green stuff

Variation #1- mix together some ranch dressing & hot sauce like Frank's, add to the wrap, and BOOM you have a buffalo chicken wrap

Variation #2- add Asian peanut sauce and BOOM you have an Asian chicken wrap

Variation #3- add bacon & ranch and BOOM you have a bacon-ranch chicken wrap

Variation #4- put some salsa on it and BOOM you have a Mexi-chicken wrap

Variation #5- add saurkraut & swiss cheese and BOOM you have something that might resemble a Reuben wrap (I had this for dinner tonight & it was great)

Variation #6- add hummus and BOOM you have a Mediterranean wrap. If you're super fancy, add some kalamata olives.

Variation #7- soak with ketchup and BOOM you have a Mrs. Pig's Bulk Buy wrap

Variation #8- substitute bread for the tortilla, bacon for the chicken, and use lettuce & tomato and BOOM you have a BLT. Except that's not crockpot beer chicken.

Variation #9- add mozzarella cheese & marinara sauce, make it all melty in the microwave and BOOM you have an Italian chicken wrap

Variation #10- put some other kind of amazing salad dressing on it and BOOM you have something more interesting than chicken in a tortilla

Other random tip- I've been using crockpot liners lately for easy cleanup. Once the chicken is cooked, I separate the chicken from the bones, strain the liquid left in the liner, put the bones/skin back in the bag & pitch the whole thing. Very easy.

Any other variation ideas?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Centralizing & Decluttering

On my short stint as an active user on Pinterest, I found a rather good "Declutter & Organize" calendar from My Simpler Life. Beth Dargis gets paid by people to organize people's lives & write stuff like this, so I figured she probably knows what she's doing. I printed off a copy & put it up on my fridge so I will always see the daily task assignment. It's great for prompting ways to declutter!

I was "inspired" to expand the extent of the calendar when I visited my sister in Texas (writer of Life on Olive Street). She started using a housekeeping notebook (or something like that, I'm hoping she writes about it since it's pretty neat). Basically, it's a centralized place for her to keep track of weekly meal plans, shopping lists, task lists, housekeeping duties, coupons, Groupons, and whatever else.

Me being a household of one, I don't need to be terribly diligent about keeping track of everything for the sake of home management, but I do like being organized, sane, and knowing the answer to "when was the last time I vacuumed." This gave me the idea of centralizing various parts of life.
  • Housekeeping- I started writing down when I did my "chores" on my decluttering calendar.
  • Bills & Money- I've designated Wednesday as my "office day". I started saving all my receipts for the week to enter into my budget spreadsheet. I have also dedicated this day to balancing accounts and all that other good stuff. I was greatly aided in this by downloading the apps for my financial institutions on my phone so I can easily look up balances and transactions and manage payments and transfers.
  • Lists- I also downloaded an app for notes & lists on my phone. It's great, no more random post-its in my purse! My lists are all in one place.
Overall, it's helped me be simplified and centralized.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Could you give up X for a month?

Lent is right around the corner. I'm not Catholic, but there's something to be said for the personal challenge of giving something up for a month (or 40-ish days, whatever).

For the month of February, I decided to give up buying clothes. Why? I don't really buy a lot of clothes & I generally hate shopping, but I suddenly found myself buying random clothes I didn't need in December & January. At the end of January, I still wanted to buy more random clothes that I don't need.

But I want more sweatpants! And I think I need a new black cardigan!

Self-control is greatly under-rated in today's society. We are told to give in to our every desire & whim since, hey, we deserve it!

No, we don't. Do we really want our impulses to have that much control over our actions?

It's a good exercise in self-control, commitment, & perseverance to have the goal of "fasting" for a period of time. For me, it's clothes for the month of February.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Simple Life

I have yet to meet anyone who wants to make their life more complicated.

Between work, family, friends, household tasks, personal goals, commitments, hobbies and everything else in life, we just don't want more to have to think about. However, when making a conscious decision to simplify or completely eliminate something from your life that others view as necessary or important, other people tend to experience some confusion.

Take, for example, the fact that I did not own a television for about a year and a half. When visitors came to my apartment, the first statement was usually, "There's so much room!" followed quickly by "Where's your TV?" TV's are such a trademark of American culture, it's WEIRD not to have one. You might as well not have running water or a refrigerator. I chose to simplify, but it confused people when I didn't meet expectations for what a "normal" person should own. I do own a TV now, but do not have cable.

It's difficult to simplify when you can't imagine living life without an object or without a certain time commitment. But do we really want living our lives to be contingent on owning objects or fulfilling schedule commitments? I'm not saying owning stuff or doing things is bad, but are these things enhancing our lives?

To really start down the path of simplicity, a person must stop merely paying lip service to the simple life. Often, people experience thoughts like "Ugh, all this stuff is stressing me out," "I wish I didn't have to go to _____ tonight. I never enjoy it. But I'd feel guilty if I didn't go," "Why do I never have time?" or "I'm so busy and overwhelmed! Will it ever stop?" but they just shove those thoughts aside so life can continue as it is expected to. Sometimes, we either don't want to change anything in our lives or don't see how we can change anything.

So what's wrong with just trying something different, even if it confuses those around you? Nothing has to be permanent, but starting to simplify life starts in very small trial periods. Would you benefit from an extra $100 or so a month by cancelling cable for six months? Would you have more time for reading, working out or your hobbies if you deactivated your Facebook account for two weeks? Would you get less late fees if you opened and dealt with your mail immediately? And would you have more family time if a child's after school commitments were limited to two? These are just examples; simplification requires personal creativity!

Yeah, you'll get weird comments, but that's perfectly ok. It's a great conversation starter!

As for me, I do strange things to pursue simplicity like not have cable and limit my time commitments so I have time & money to go hiking in Colorado and look at scenery like this (on the way up to the Hagerman Tunnel near Buena Vista, CO).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Resume Tips

Unemployment is a major buzzword right now. However, as one who has been on both sides of the hiring process during the last year, I've had my share of experiences both reading and writing resumes. From the hiring point of view, I'll be honest, only about 10% of the resumes I've read would make me want to call the candidate in for an interview. The majority of resumes are poorly crafted and don't present any sort of viable skillsets.

I think more and more employers are beginning to share my frustrations. Just today, I ran across several good articles about resumes.

Four Things That Can Send Your Resume in the Trash

Why I Won't Hire You

I would also add:
  1. Don't put your picture on your resume
  2. Proofread everything
  3. Have your most judgemental friend or family member proofread as well
  4. Don't lie
Nobody will know how amazing you are until you present yourself correctly!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why You Don't Have Any Time

Why You Don't Have Any Time. Great article. I could identify with pretty much all of these...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Catch-all Catch-up & a Few New Shopping Rules

So it's been a while! I don't normally do personal life updates on here, but it might help explain my 2 month blogging hiatus. I don't normally HAVE to do personal life updates, since my life tends to be rather similar on a day-to-day basis- work, exercise, eat, live.

But one week after my last entry in November, I got an interview for a new job (which I will be starting in a week!), got accepted into grad school at Penn State and started "officially" dating a pretty cool guy. That was a lot for one week, then mix in the holidays, a pending job transition, and everything else in life, and well, something's gotta give :)

I'll confess, I also joined Pinterest during that timeframe. That didn't help any free time I thought I had. But Pinterest is no more for me. It made me feel overstimulated & uncreative, plus for me, it was a time suck. I think it's a great tool for some people out there, but it's not for me. (nevermind the MAJOR beef I have with their so-called "fitness" category. How is staring at photo-shopped abs of 20 year olds going to actually motivate anyone to adopt a healthier lifestyle? It's setting up fitness as an unachievable goal which is totally not right.)

I also found out that blogging = accountability. When I know I am accountable to the cyber-world for things like minimalism and frugality, I'm a lot less likely to buy stupid stuff I don't need. In the two months off blogging, I slipped! So I have a few new shopping rules to live by-
  • Only buy clearance items if they were already on your list
  • "Cheap" does not mean "you need this"
  • Don't shop close to closing time: you're more likely to buy something in a rush instead of carefully considering the purchase
I suppose we all must screw up from time to time in these areas to remind ourselves why we picked frugality and simplicity in the first place. Attempting to resell mistake purchases is an excellent way to give yourself a reality-check for the "value" of your items. (side note: minimalist preachers frequently tout the benefit of "you can make money by selling your surplus items!" as a reason to be a minimalist. I don't know who they are selling their old crap to and making money, because around here, you don't get a lot of $ for old crap. This is because it's old crap.) I sold several things to a second-hand store & got a whopping $9.10. This doesn't quite cover the cost of my mistake items, but it lessens the blow.

So as 2012 gets rolling, I'm getting back in the groove. I started the 2012 Declutter Calendar. It's pretty good! It gives you one fairly simple task to do each day for decluttering. I have it on my fridge & mark each day as to whether or not I had to do the activity (like if the activity was "clean out one garage shelf" and I don't have a garage).

I'll also be co-hosting a clothing & accessories exchange in the next few months. We're combining it with a bra donation for a women's shelter & an instruction session on "How Your Bra Should Actually Fit" taught by one of my friends.

I hope your 2012 is starting well!