Everyday, minimalism

With logical decisions, comes illogical anxiety

I was feeling so anxious last night.  My husband and I made a very logical decision.  But I had to keep telling myself it was a logical and very responsible decision.  It didn’t require a whole lot of thought or work to achieve and in the end it will probably save us some money.  Then why is it so hard to feel ok about it?  Why do I feel like I am missing out on something?  Why do I feel like I am turning my back to an old friend?  Why am I giving such deep emotion to a car?  Yes, you heard me right….. a car.

Let me explain a little.

So last year, we decided to try being a one vehicle family.  We traded in both of our current vehicles and bought a new 2016 model.  Since I was working so close to home (literally less than a half mile) we thought only having one car for a while just made sense.  We picked out a new car, with all the bells a whistles and shared it for over 6 months.  In that time, if I needed the car I would just take my husband to work and then pick him up later, thus giving me the car the rest of the day.  Or when I didn’t need to go too far I would either ride my bicycle or my motor scooter.  Over time, my work and social life started to pick up a little more and we also realized that we were putting the miles of two cars onto one, so later in the year we bought a second car (a 2017).  This would be my car.  By the time we got the second car, the 2016 was a year old and had over 20,000 miles on it!  (That is about double what an average person drives in a year.)  Now, after 4 months of having my own car, we realized that I still don’t drive as much as my husband does.  By the time the 2017 would be a year old it MIGHT have 7000 miles on it.

In comes the logical decision.

This past weekend I really got to thinking about the general maintenance for each vehicle.  We have extended service warranties on both vehicles and they are mileage based.  Basically, so many services, every 5000 miles, for so many years.  Well my husband had already used 4 of his services in the first year alone, while I hadn’t even used my first one yet.  So I thought, why not switch cars to balance out the mileage for a little while?  I mean I basically picked out both cars and liked both of them anyways, so what difference would it make which one I drove?  Makes sense right?  Of course it does.  But then why do I feel so much anxiety about such an easy decision?

Because I am still learning about how to not place feelings and emotions into inanimate objects.

I have always loved cars.  I’ve had so many cars in my 20 some years of driving that I would run out of fingers and toes if I tried to count them all.  And I literally loved some of them; gave them names and kept them in spotless condition.  Now my husband… not so much.  He likes cars as a daily tool, but never really cared too much overall about what he drove.  Just not his thing.  To him, a car, is literally just a thing.  He takes care of his car ok, but nothing like the way I do.  My cars have always been clean, inside and out.  I love trying to keep that new car smell for as long as possible.  I park far away in parking lots to avoid door dings and I visit the car wash often.  If I run over a curb, first thing I do is pray to the car gods that I haven’t scratched my wheels.  Again, my husband not so much.  He doesn’t necessarily “trash” our cars he just views them as what they are; a tool for getting from one place to another, carrying whatever needs to be carried; whether it be people or objects, nothing more, nothing less.  If some coffee gets spilled or a window gets left rolled down, no big deal.  But my car is almost like my pet.  I tend to personify them and when I drive my car I view it as an extension of myself.  Like my noble steed.  So having to “give up” my new “baby” after only 4 short months feels like, like…. I don’t know.  I can’t explain it.  Like I am saying goodbye to an old friend after a short, but over due, visit.  Which is crazy because the car will come home everyday to our house.  It’s not like I sold it to a stranger or dropped it off at the scrap metal yard!

I guess maybe the anxiety comes from a lack of control.  I can’t control how my husband will treat my car.  I know he isn’t as mindful with our vehicles, but I also know he understands how I like to keep them in good condition.  He wouldn’t do anything on purpose to “damaged” the car, but I just feel like I am more careful.  Whether that is actually true or not, I really can’t judge.  Maybe since I don’t drive as much and my car doesn’t get as much ware and tear, it gives me a false sense of validity that I take care of it better?

So after switching out our things from each car, and parking my “new” vehicle in the garage (what will my car think having to spend the night outside?) we came in and got ready for bed.  I started to talked to my husband in a very serious manner.  I really wanted him to understand that I wasn’t messing around and that I was really struggling with this new idea.  I truly think he did try his best to understand my anxiety.  He told me that he understood that it’s always been very important for me to take really good care of my vehicles even before he knew me.  He said that he remembered me explaining to him that “a car is your second biggest investment to your house” and that he could understand why I would have some reservations about all this.  But he did remind me that financially this was a good and logical choice (plus it was my idea in the first place).  Then he said something that really resonated with me.  Something that really made me think about how silly I was being for having such anxiety.  He said to me:

“Don’t let the things you own, own you.”

I couldn’t have said that better myself if I tried.  It was 100% on target with everything I had been trying to live by lately.  It was ok to appreciate the things that I had in my life but that was just it.  This car was a thing.  It was not a person or a pet; it was a thing.  Somewhere down the road I forgot that.  Sometime in my life, probably when I was younger, I took a turn and started to really place human emotions into an inanimate object.  I also was a guilty of letting what I drove speak for what kind of person I was.  I traded in cars left and right just to have the newest model with the newest gadgets.  Or something faster.  Or something bigger.  Or….  or….. or…… and so on and so forth.  Always looking for something else and never just being satisfied with what I already had.  I would literally ride the high of buying that new car but over time it would fade and I would need another “hit”.

Come to think of it, I went through a similar situation about two weeks ago.  My three-year old, iPhone 5s, had finally crapped out on me for the last time.  I had to face the music and go to the store to buy a new phone.  I had been holding off for months.  I really didn’t want a new phone.  While I was talking with the salesman, I felt that same sense of anxiety and loss of an old friend.  I loved that 5s.  It was paid off and in my opinion, just the perfect size and shape for me.  I felt like the new 7 couldn’t possibly take its place.  But here I am, weeks later and I don’t even think about the old phone any more.  I already bought a new case for it and several people have told me that they can hear me better when I talk to them on it.  The battery lasts a lot longer and it doesn’t just randomly shut itself off anymore.

Why do we do this?  Why do we “love” our things so much?  I mean we LOVE them.  The Minimalist have talked about this many, many times.  How can we use a word, that expresses such a deep emotion, so freely, on an object?  You love your parents, kids, pets, partners, PEOPLE (and animals); but to love a phone or a car?  That’s where the disconnect is.  That’s where we need to evolve more and check our priories.  We need to:

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.” -The Minimalist

Change isn’t easy and it is an ongoing process.  I heard my husband leave this morning in our car and I got hit with a little rush of anxiety again.  But after finishing this up and really putting things into a different perspective, I can say I feel a little better.  I feel like in a weird way doing things like this, letting go of my car, letting go of that control, is something I really needed to do in order to evolve a little bit more.

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Everyday, minimalism

Feeling grateful

Last night before I went to bed, I watched a Facebook live feed from Jason Wrobel.  The headline for the feed was “praying for what you don’t want”.  Jason talked about how so many times we tend to focus our thoughts on the bad things that are happening or could be happening in the future to us.  These thoughts are manifested into stress and anxiety and really do us no good at all.  They leave us inadvertently “praying for what you don’t want”.  Instead, he suggested that we be thankful for the things we have been blessed with in our everyday lives.  As well as to be genuinely happy for others and the things they have been blessed with.  Instead of judging people or being jealous of their gains, we should embrace them.  The more we embrace these things the more likely we are to bring those same joys and gains into our own lives.

Yesterday, I also starting reading a book called:  “Citizen Thoreau” by Henry David Thoreau.  It is a collection of Thoreau’s greatest short stories.  I know I am probably a little behind the times with discovering Thoreau.  I have heard over and over again that a lot of his work was required reading in high school and college.  Maybe he and I have crossed paths before, but I cannot recall.  In high school was probably not interested in his work because I hadn’t yet grown enough to really understand the world around me, as so many of us hadn’t at such a young age.  The main story that I was interested in is titled “Walden“.  I have only just started into it, but Thoreau touches on what our basic needs are as humans and how we forget just how little we actually require to live a fruitful and peaceful life.  We need shelter of course, and food.  Along with those things we need heat.  Heat to cook our food, warm our homes (shelters) and really not too much else.  But we live our day-to-day, working for so much more.  More luxury.  More things.  More than we ever could really ever need.  We trade our time, our lives, just to attain more stuff.

I learned of Thoreau through another set of people who I have been following, The Minimalist.  I have mentioned The Minimalist in a prior blog and have really been avid follower of them.  I have learned so much about living with less and because of that, being so much more grateful for all the things I already have in my life.  And a lot of these “things” are not things at all.

So, I woke up this morning and I got to thinking about all of the “riches” I have in my life;  that my husband and I share together.  So here I am.  I am even grateful for the fact that these thoughts brought me here today to share them with all of you.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I used to on my blog and that does sadden me.  I’m hoping to turn that around soon.  Today the fire was lit under me.  After having all these thoughts I just felt inspired to write.  Like if I hadn’t I would have regretted it and that was not how I wanted to choose to start my day or weekend.  So below is a list of everything (well probably not everything) that I feel grateful for today.  I hope by sharing this, maybe someone else, that maybe in a bad spot, may realize that they live a richer life then they once believed?

I am grateful for my husband.  He is a hard worker and has an amazing job.  He loves to provide for us and loves and cares very deeply for me.  We may not always get along or see things the same way but overall I know he is a wonderful man and I love growing with him everyday.

I am grateful for my friends.  I have a very (very) small group of friends but they are more like family to me.  And even though I may not spend a lot of time with them (I am more introverted in that way) I always feel like we just pick up right were we left off and that they have my back no matter what.

I am grateful for my fur-babies.  I have a wonderful cat named Sammi.  She and her sister Raspberry (who we had to say goodbye to about two months ago) have been the best little babies I could have ever asked for.  They followed me through the last 13 years of my life.  They have always been there through the good and the bad and I have always tried to do the best for them in return.  I cannot imagine life without pets.  I also have a rabbit that I love dearly.  I never thought I would be a mommy bunny but she came to us by the powers of the universe and I am glad to have her.  We are also adopting two sisters kittens next week that we are very excited about adding to our family.  We miss Raspberry dearly, but we also have too much love to give to another animal that it just seems right to give a home to these little girls.

I am grateful for our home.  We have a little condo on the very northwestern edge of Austin.  It has been the first place that I have lived in the past 13 years that has truly felt like home.  It is small by todays standards, but it is cozy and filled with love.

I am grateful for my job.  I have had many jobs in the past that I have loved, but this is the first one that I really feel like I am apart of.  I work for a small business that is steadily growing.  My boss and his business partner have been wonderful to me over the past year.  Being the only employee has been great.  Having the freedom to set my own schedule has been priceless and feeling like I am apart of something in its infant stages is wonderful.  I am so glad that I can be apart of helping it to grow.

I am grateful for my parents.  Just because they are lower on this list, doesn’t mean they have less value to me.  I could not be who I am today without them.  They have supported me with their love throughout my whole life.  They have guided me but have always let me choose which path to take at the fork.  I love them so dearly couldn’t have asked for a better two people to call mom and dad.  It makes me so sad when I hear other people say they are not close to their parents.  I cannot imagine my life in those circumstances, so again I say how grateful I am for them.

I am grateful for the money that we have in our savings.  I know that money is not everything.  I do not wish to be “rich” and money does not make you more powerful (at least not in my eyes).  But having a good foundation does make our everyday life a little less stressful.  It allows us to have the roof we have over our heads and the food we put in our mouths.  It allows us to care for the fur-babies that depend on us for literally their whole wellbeing.  We have dependable cars and can afford to eat a good meal for every meal of the day.  It keeps our house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It allows me the means to write this very blog on my computer using our internet.  I try to be as humble as possible when it comes to money.  I try not to let it rule my every decision and by living with less, I worry less about it.

I am grateful for my health.  I really try to do the best that I can for my body and health. I try to eat the best foods that I can afford and not waste.  I am vegan, which has to do with my health as well as the health of every living creature on this planet.  I try not to take my health for granted.  I love sweets but I try to remember that everything is better in moderation.  I always remind myself that you cannot out-run your fork and not to reward myself like a dog!  I consider myself a runner and attribute a lot of my good health to that passion.  And by learning to live a more meaningful life, I believe my health will improve even more.

I’m sure there are a lot more things that I take for granted that I am grateful for.  There are people in my life that provide services to my husband and I that I am very grateful for like our therapist and our vet clinic, hell even my hairdresser!

We sometimes forget that it can take a village to really learn how to grow.  That has become a sad fact in the past 10-15 years.  I feel like as humans, with the technology that we have available to us, have lost touch with each other.  I am grateful that I have learned of so many great leaders, life coaches, bloggers, etc. via the internet but at the same time I find myself feeling more distance from actually human interaction more than ever.  We are probably all guilty of this.  It is easier to sign onto social media and keep in touch with our “friends” through text and “likes” then it is to just sit down and have lunch or tea together.  But this form of communication can feel cold and impersonal.  I think as a planet we all need to come together for the greater good of humanity.  That’s a pretty bold statement but the sense of community is slowly disappearing and that is a very lonely thought.

So be grateful for all that you have and really dig deep and reach out to the people and places that are important to you.  Don’t take anything for granted and learn to live a more intentional life.

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Everyday, minimalism

Purr-fect Minimalists

So, I was sitting up at 2am today, thinking (because that’s the hour of the day that my creative juices start to flow apparently).  Before I had gone to bed last night, I was listening to a podcast by The Minimalists and they were taking about dealing with “Unpleasant” things.

I guess I should back up the boat a little and explain just who/what The Minimalists are.  Basically there were these two 20-something year old guys, that one day just had enough of their six figure, corporate job, rat race lives.  One of them, Joshua Millburn, had been faced with some of life’s more horrible un-pleasantries, by loosing his mother to cancer and his wife to divorce, all in one week.  So after life had given him the big F-you he decided to change how he lived his life by learning about Minimalism.  He soon realized that there was no amount of “stuff” that could ever make him (or really anyone) happy.  So it didn’t matter how much money he made, if all he was going to do with it was buy more stuff and in his case, get further into debt for that stuff (go figure right?  Making 6 figures and still in debt).  After downsizing literally everything in his life, including his job, home, wardrobe, use of technology, and then some, he truly realized that he could be happy with less.  His friend and former co-worker, Ryan Nicodemus, noticed in no time that Joshua just seemed happier.  He asked Joshua what his secret was and after explaining Minimalism to Ryan, he too started to downsize his life.  Unlike Joshua, Ryan’s universe already forced him out of his job when he was downsized from the same job that Joshua willing left months prior.  So with life’s little push; so forms the Minimalists.  Now over the past 6 years they have created a website, gone on tour, wrote books and done podcasts all about Minimalism and the joy of living with less.

Now back to what I was doing/thinking at 2am this morning.  I was actually petting my 13-year-old cat, Sammi, that for sometime now insist on sleeping right next to my pillow and purr-furs to have some part of her body pressed up against mine.  She was pretty happy to be getting some loving from me when she very well knew I should be fast asleep.  I got to thinking about her life  (a well taken care of house cat) and Minimalism.

My cat Sam, and her kitty sister Rasberry live the most purr-fect example of Minimalism that I can think of.  I mean honestly, they don’t really have any possession; except for the collar around their neck’s, a litter box that their human-slave (myself) keeps clean for them (most of the time), a heated bed (that Sam tends to hog all for herself), along with a couple of catnip toys.  That’s it.  No mortgage.  No car payments.  No bills to pay or job to go to (although sometimes I don’t think they keep up with their end of the kitty-rent-free deal when they leave me moist, hairy, surprises to step in with bare feet, just saying).  And I can tell you this, they are two of the most happy kitties.  They really have no worries and live a very pam-purred life.  They seem 100% happy in their carefree, minimalist style lives.  They don’t require “things” to make them happy.  They just love living life from day-to-day, soaking up an occasional sun beam or taking in the smells from our raised patio and of course the head scratches from mom and dad.  They don’t need to watch tv or get online to enjoy their lives.  They don’t have iPhones or Amazon accounts.  They live in the moment and flourish off of our love for them.

What a novel way to live.

Once all our basic needs are met (food, water, shelter and in my opinion love) what more do we really need?  I am just starting to learn how to live with less stuff and instead push to live through my experiences and passions.  It’s a hard process.  I’m not going to lie.

Unlike my furry friends, I was not raised to not want things.  Ever since childhood we are consciously and subconsciously, raised to want more.  To want better.  To keep up with the Jones’s in away.  Advertisements are everywhere for the newest, latest, and greatest, must have, things.  Peer pressure is real among children and adults to provide and have nothing but the best for ourselves and our families.  But what does it leave us with?  Latch key kids, whose parents have to work over 60 hours a week to be able to afford the house that is too big, with too much stuff, and too green a lawn to take care of.  Then those kids look for love in the things that their parents can afford to buy for them.  New phones, video games, clothes, cars and so on.  And the cycle starts over.  Maybe this time, the 60 hour work weeks drive these new parents to divorce.  Families are spilt apart rather than growing together.  And all for what????  Stuff.  Stuff, stuff, stuff and more stuff.  Instead of raising our children to feel entitled and devalued, why not raise them to understand that they can never get back time that is lost with their families when they are a slave to their things?  Take them to the park, go on road trips, read together, just spend time together!  Teach them compassion and empathy and above all love.  Self love and a kindness.  Teach them about things that cannot be bought.

Looking back on my own childhood, I do remember having some great Christmas’s and birthday’s.  My parents were not rich by any means but I never went without anything that I can remember and I’m sure I got a lot of great things for these occasions.  But what I remember most is the time that I spend with family and friends during those occasions.  I remember taking walks with my grandmother.  Going swimming at my aunt and uncles house and hanging out with my cousins.  I remember going to the flea market every Saturday morning with my dad or coming home everyday to my mom after school.  During the summer it was fun to hang out at my friend’s house or go swimming.  I always felt loved.  And I always felt like I belonged.  But I honestly could not tell you much about the gifts I received.  Sure I remember a couple of the bigger items (getting a brand new Nintendo back in the 80’s was crazy amazing) but most I don’t even own any longer.  They severed their purpose at that time in my life and now they are gone.  But the things that I wish I could get back are not things at all.  It has taken me a long time to realize this.  And now I hope to move forward in my life knowing this and embracing the time that I have with all the important people in my life.

I mean going back to my cat analogy.  I could leave my two babies alone for a whole day with tons of toys and treats and stuff to keep them occupied, but I can guarantee you that the second they hear me coming to the door they will be on the steps waiting for me to come in and love them.  They will have forgotten about whatever toys are scattered around the floor and just want to have an open lap to lay in.  (I slow blink you too Sammi and Rasberry.)

What it all boils down to is stuff is stuff.  Stuff does not equal love.  Stuff does not fill the holes in our hearts or our souls.  It just gets in the way of what is truly important.  Your passions, beliefs, families, friends, furry babies, goals, adventures, and time that you can never get back.

One of the questions that was asked of the Minimalists during last nights podcast, was, “Is there anything you removed from your life that you now regret that you removed?”  Both Joshua and Ryan’s answers were No.  Actually Joshua’s regret was that when he found out that his mother was deathly ill, he regretted that he had let so much time pass without any contact with her prior.  Granted they had a very rough mother to son relationship (she was an alcoholic and he a latch key kid, both with no money) but at the end of her life he wanted nothing more than more time with her.  I am not sure where I have heard this before, but I believe a lot of nurses and care givers who work at hospice organizations or homes for the elderly all hear the same thing when people are in their finally days.  Everyone just wishes they had more time.  Time.  Time with their family and friends.  Time to go on that trip that they never got around to.  Time to just sit back and enjoy the wonderful life that they had.  Time for more sunsets.  Time for more visits with their children.  So, even though it sounds so cliché, “you can’t take it with you in the end”, couldn’t be truer of a statement.

Another point that was brought up about “regretting something that you removed” was that if you were that attached to a material object that you actually felt it pain when it was gone, then you were probably putting too much energy and life force into that object in the first place.   A set of fine china from your grandparents house, is not your grandparents.  It’s just stuff.  You may remember the times that you ate off of it, maybe at the holidays, but those memories are far more important to have then the box of plates and tea cups that you have stored away in your garage.  Write down those memories.  Blog or journal about those times in your life.  Share the stories with younger family members that may have been too young to appreciate them in the same way.  But let that box of unused stuff go.

Sure, I do understand that everyone has their own personal vise.  Maybe pick out one tea-cup to have just for yourself and then let the rest go.  I know my vise is greeting cards.  Even though I made a promise to myself about a year ago, that I would stop sending/buying greeting cards (because what a big waste when you really think about it, but mom if you are reading this, which I know you are, I will always continue to send  you cards because I know how much you love them) I have kept every single card my mother has sent me since I moved out-of-state over 13 years ago.  I have no idea why, and they just sit in a box in a closet in my condo.  The only time they get touched is when I add another one to the box.  But now when I come to think about the why even more, I realize that this was a learned behavior because I can go to my parents right now and my mom would have a huge pill of cards from my dad and I probably from longer then I have been alive.  I don’t even know if I have ever really asked her why she has kept them all?  Not that there is anything wrong with it, but it may not be the best use of space.  I’m sure when the horrible day comes that my parents are no longer with me, I will find solace with them, but I do try to remind myself that they are just cards; not actually physical extensions of my parents themselves.  I think that is the hardest thing to deal with when deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.  We personify inanimate objects.  We feel like we will be “hurting the feelings” of the object we are trying to part with, because someone we love dearly, gave it to us.  That’s where the real issue lies; in separation of feelings vs what actually is.  That’s what makes it Unpleasant.

Well I have rambled on a lot longer then my original thoughts from my 2am cuddle feast with my cat.  I know it has been quit sometime since my last entry (almost 4 moths, yikes!) but I do hope to be writing more and more as I allow less and less stuff to enter into my life.  I hope you will continue to follow me as I go down the rabbit hole of Minimalism and learn how to find joy in my life from more experiences and less clutter!

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