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!