Tag Archives: Minimalism

Encore Quotes – Random Reflections

It’s taken us a the better part of a lifetime to figure out that what makes us happy is not how much stuff we have.  I read somewhere that we spend the first 2/3 of our lives accumulating possessions, and the last 1/3 getting rid of those possessions!  So take some time and evaluate what really makes you HAPPY and have a fabulous weekend!

~ Lynn

How Much is Enough? 8 Things We’ve Learned

When we first found ourselves both unemployed seven years ago, my younger sister posed a very simple yet important question:

How much do you really need?

At first, it calmed our fears.  We had saved up plenty to survive while we decided our next steps.  But more importantly, it started us on a journey to sort of pseudo-minimalism.  We lightened our load, examined our stuff, started conversations about our values, and took a hard look at what is really important to us.  We started designing our lives on this Encore Voyage with much more intention.

Examining ‘Enough’

In the early days, hubs would spend sleepless nights trying to answer the question, “Am I doing the right things?”  “Am I taking the right jobs?”  Am I taking all the steps I need for us to be successful.”  At first, those were questions born of fear and uncertainty.

The same questions are true for anyone entering retirement.  Have we saved enough?  Are we prepared both financially and emotionally?  Do we need to do more? Are we ready to take the leap?

Well, it’s taken us a few years, but we have finally learned to stop and take some very deep breaths.  And we’ve learned some things about “Enough.”

  1. We do not need to fill every hour of every day.  Down time is now cherished! We are mindful about doing “enough.”
  2. We do not need to exist on the 8 to 5 schedule of the working world.  It’s OK for us to skip out in the middle of the afternoon or to work on a weekend. We get to decide what to make of the day, and no longer feel guilty for not doing “enough.”
  3. We don’t need to buy much more “stuff.”  We want the items we own to be useful, meaningful or beautiful.  Generally speaking, we own “enough.”
  4. Taking time in the middle of the afternoon to read a book or pursue a hobby is quite OK.  You can never have “enough” curiosity or interests.
  5. We travel lightly.  I’ve studied up on many travel blogs, and it really is quite possible to go anywhere in a 22 inch carry-on and a backpack. Just “enough” is waaayyyy better when traveling than too much!
  6. Keeping up with the Joneses is stupid.  They are broke!  Our “enough” is not for anyone else to judge.
  7. You can never have “enough” meaningful relationships.  They are far more important than the things you own!
  8. There will NEVER be “enough” time for us to love each other and be together.  We need to take advantage of every moment we’re given in this life.

So how about it…What’s “enough” for you?  Any important things I’ve left off the list?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

~ Lynn

 

 

Photo credit: Patrick Fore ~ Unsplash

Yet Another List – Needs vs. Wants

Recently, Kathy Merlino over at Kathy’s Retirement Blog, wrote a post called What Is Your Relationship with Money?  It seems that some folks really took exception to Kathy’s use of the term ‘Blow Money’ for that money which has been earmarked for “discretionary spending.”  She and her hubs allot a certain amount each month to spend as they see fit – without questions!  I think it’s great – It’s not “Money Blown” as her next post suggests, but rather money which is spent making their lives wonderful!  Yep, actual money for LIVING!

Hubs and I use a similar but slightly different “strategy.”  We keep what we call the Needs and Wants List:

Our Needs-Wants List

On the Needs side, we list things that are going to REQUIRE upcoming expenditures:  A new roof.  Tires for the car.  On the Wants side, we list things that come up that we would like to purchase, but are not actual necessities:  New tile in the guest bath, refacing the kitchen cabinets, those diamond encrusted wine glasses (OK…. Not really…. surely you know me better than that by now!)

The point is that the list accomplishes two things for us:

  • First, by putting an item on the list, we are forced to analyze our motives.  Is this something we really need, or is it something we’d just like to have?
  • Second, putting items on one list or the other allows us to prioritize our spending, while slowing down impulse buying (at least on larger items.)  Have you ever stopped to think something through like this – “Which would be more important to us…a new toilet or new carpet in the family room?”

The list is generally for bigger ticket items.  We have always had a shared bank account, and because we both have similar financial values, we don’t get crazy on the day to day splurges.  (Yep, occasional quilt fabric counts as day to day spending.)  Neither of us is a compulsive shopper – I repeatedly remind him that he is a lucky man, because clothes shopping is just not in my wheelhouse!  Our Needs and Wants list helps us to think about the question, “What do we need to save for, and what should we “blow money” on?”  In either case,  we believe that as long as it’s thoughtful, deliberate, and within the retirement budget, none of that money is actually “blown.”

Your Prized Possessions – Do You Know What They Are?

I told you in an earlier post about Our Minimalist Epiphany, right?  In a moment of particular clarity, Hubs and I realized that we had way too much stuff, and that it was stealing our joy.  Now, we are not what you would call “hard-core” minimalists, getting rid of all but the bare necessities.  Rather, we trying to be more intentional about what we own.  Borrowing a phrase I saw on the blog Simple Living

Minimalism is living with what you NEED,
and what you LOVE…That’s it
.

I’ve thumbed through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where she speaks of the items that you own “sparking joy.” You should handle each and every item in your home, and decide if that thing gives you joy.  If it does not, thank it for its service, and get rid of it (in a nutshell).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going around my house touching all my stuff or talking to it.  I am, however, looking at our possessions with a different eye.  Have you ever just stood in a room in your home, looked around, and thought:

“Is this something I really love, or is it just junk.”

Or

“Is this something that is regularly used, or is it just taking up space?”

I’ve been doing just that lately.  I ran across a blog called The Burning House.  The premise of this photographic blog – If your house were on fire, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s valuable, practical and sentimental.  This exercise has caused two things:

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff that doesn’t really matter, and as a result, our home feels like it’s filled with the items that truly reflect our personalities.

I’ve settled on some Non-negotiable, You’ll have to pry them out of my cold, dead, hands, Prized Possessions:

  • My mother in law’s little tin knife: Back when we were dating, I would sit in the kitchen watching her cut up vegetables with so much love.
  • My little glass chicken – given to me by the best man at our wedding (there’s a story there.)
  • A hundred plus year old Dresden plate quilt, hand pieced and quilted by his grandma.
  • My original Dick, Jane and Sally print
  • My mom’s cross

Prized Posessions

These are the things that are the first to be saved in the event of a fire.  Oh, of course I’ll try to grab the file box with all of our records in it, and it would be nice to grab some photos, but in reality most of those have been safely stored in the cloud. And yes, I would probably grab our portable hard drive on which we back up both of our computers.  But the reality of it is, in true minimalist fashion, much of the stuff in our house is just stuff!  The prized possessions have become crystal clear!

Lynn

Affording the Encore – 12 Ways We Cut Costs

When we first began the Encore Voyage, we had a few moments of total freak out at our complete loss of income stream!  Then, cooler heads prevailed and we took a deep breath. We realized that we would most likely not starve, at least for a day or two.  To all you youngsters (and by that I mean anyone under the age of 40), listen to me now:

 

We are living proof that you absolutely, positively,
need to have an emergency savings plan in place!

 

And that means before you go out and buy those jet skis or that snowmobile that you think you absolutely must have!  You don’t need it nearly as much as you will need to live in the event that you lose your income!  Just sayin’…

 

So back to the story…For the first couple of months we were able to draw upon our savings, without raiding our retirement account, while we figured out what to do.  We decided to start our own small business, and having some cash set aside allowed us to get that started. Having your own business takes lots of work and drive, and is the topic of many other blogs, from which we have learned a great deal.  But I also started following The Minimalists and Be More With Less, and I started thinking about how much we really need to be happy.  Now don’t get me wrong – this is not about being cheap.  I want to have some cash in hand just as much as the next girl.  But it is about really evaluating how and where you spend your hard earned money…and that’s where we woke up!

 

In the years when there was a much bigger income in this household, we spent a great deal.  I don’t want to think of it as being wasteful, but let’s just say we ‘squandered’ quite a bit.  We didn’t really give it much thought until recently. The Encore Voyage has started us thinking about some ways in which we could be wiser about our spending:

 

1)  We reduced our cable TV package to the minimum package.  When you actually sit down and calculate the cost of higher level movie/sports packages and then compare that figure to the number of movies or events you actually see, the cost per viewing for this convenience can be ridiculous.  You can rent a lot of movies from Red Box for a buck…


2) We paid attention to how we use the heat and air conditioning in our house.  Rather than just set the thermostat and forget it, we took an active role in closing shades, opening windows, adding another layer of clothes…and cut our heating and cooling bills by 4-10% over the previous year.


3) We cancelled our subscription to the newspaper.  It was a habit that was simply adding to the bulk of the recycle bin.  Lots of access to local and national news is available on my tablet.  There’s even too much news and I must be cautious not to let electronic media rule my mornings!  I even found a free app to replace the comics and my favorite daily word puzzles!


4) I monitored our cell phone use and ultimately reduced our data package.  Not because we put ourselves on any type of data diet, but because we were previously paying for data that we were not using!


5) We have changed the way we eat.  We now rarely eat at fast food restaurants.  Not only is this change way healthier for us, but it saves us a lot of money!  It is amazing how much fast food we used to grab, just for convenience. Seriously – I used to have the phone number for Pizza Hut memorized!


6) We plan, shop for, and cook more meals at home.  I’m a much better cook now that I have time to plan and shop for groceries.  I’m not “extreme” about any of it, but a coupon here and a trip to Costco there all adds up to savings.  Not to mention that we have found we actually love cooking, chopping, and drinking wine in the kitchen together – 
An added benefit!


7) We got rid of a bunch of magazine subscriptions. That stack of magazines that are sitting there unread???  Yeah those – You don’t need them!  You can find most of that stuff on line, and I have learned that your magazines should not cause you stress!  Bu-bye!


8) We turn off the lights!  There were times when this house was lit up like a Christmas tree! Crazy wasteful!


9) I download books from the public library.  Probably cut my book purchases in half!  My 
Carpe Librum post will tell you how.


10) We spend waaaayyyyy less money on both gas and clothing.  Because we now work primarily from home, we don’t need nearly as much.  The savings on gasoline is huge!  And because our minimalist efforts are paying off, reducing all those clothes in the closets just makes everything seem lighter and less stressful!


11) I don’t know if this is going to be a savings, but because I have more time, I make many of the gifts I give.  Shhhhhh…don’t tell – quilted things for everyone!  And lots of pleasure for me!


12) Our most recent step was to get rid of our land line telephone!  Why is it that everyone under the age of 35 has already done this, and everyone over the age of 35 has a hard time cutting the cord?  We took the plunge, because the only calls on that number were usually solicitations! …And just like that, there’s another 20 bucks, and we found we really didn’t miss it!


So, you see, it’s not about being cheap.  It’s about paying attention to where the money goes!  And it’s about deciding with intentionality how you want to live.  So how about it…Do you have any other strategies that you’ve used to cut costs?  Please be sure to share in the comments!

Lynn

Carpe Librum – Seize the Book!

One of my favorite things about retirement and this Encore Voyage…Here’s a Hint:

I Read Past My Bedtime

It’s the BEST!!!  To finally have the time to read, read, read, read and then read some more – well, just heavenly.  And to not pay the penalty.  Here’s how it goes when I read in bed.  I tell myself, “Just one more chapter.” – Then look and I’ve gone the next 100 pages, OR I tell myself, “Just 15 more minutes.” – and look to find yet another hour has passed.  The Encore Voyage allows for such nonsense without having to explain my glazed eyes to my boss in the morning.  We love to go on Barnes & Noble dates and pet and smell and touch and generally support brick and mortar booksellers.  I also have a confession to make.  I’ve had my Nook for several years, and I love it, too.  I love being able to have lots of books with me when traveling, and I love being able to adjust the light (particularly helpful for past my bedtime reading!).  So I guess you can say I’m bi-literary:  I swing both ways.

But in my subtle move toward minimalism, I’ve also been reducing the number of actual books I have around the house.  It’s a little bit like giving away a child, I know, but it can be done, at least in part.  It’s easier knowing that I can still access those wonderful works with a tap of the screen…

And my latest rediscovery on the Encore Voyage?  The Public Library!   Come on, face it you boomers and retirees…when was the last time you roamed around your public library?  Here’s a news flash:  You should go!  No seriously, get your rear down to your local library and take your electronic reader with you, because here’s what I’ve learned:  There’s a high probability that your library will have a talented young techie person who will get you hooked up with downloading from the library’s e-collection. It’s easy peasy…They will help you download and start an account for OverDrive Media Console.  It’s quite simple.  You will need an Adobe account (easy to set up the first time – just an email and a password), and it’s all free.  Then wham, bam, thank you library – You are in business.  You select your local library and are directed to it’s e-collection right on your e-reader.  Coolest thing ever?  You can check out and download books from wherever you happen to have a wi-fi connection!  Generally, you can check them out for 14 days or so, and then they are just deleted.  Right??? No books to return, no worrying about overdue books.  And the hours and hours of browsing potential, without anyone thinking you are some weirdo!   If a book isn’t available right now, you can place a hold on it and the library will notify you by e-mail when it’s available for download.  Once you have the account, you can even put Overdrive on your smart phone, for those moments when you are bored at the DMV!   Just thinking about it makes my eyes glaze over with reader bliss…

Carpe librum
So carpe librum and hurry over to your local library!  Then let me know how it all works out for you!

Lynn

 

Our Minimalist Epiphany – 6 Reasons We Are Lightening Our Load

About 15 years ago, Jeremy and I purchased a 21-acre parcel of land south of town.  In the time since, we’ve built a storage shed, acquired some farm equipment and have a local farmer using the land just to keep it productive and to keep the weeds down.  Our plan has always been to finish paying for the land, and then to build a custom home, designed by Jeremy, of course. What’s the point of marrying an architect if you don’t use him at least once, don’tcha think?


That’s the preface to this story…About a week ago, we received an e-mail from a friend and his wife, telling us their new address and contact information.  It seems they had sold their five-acre farm for the following reasons:  “The cycle of mowing, irrigating, fertilizing, mowing, fixing fence, paying to have the tractor fixed, mowing, moving pipe, paying for water, replacing pumps, and mowing” had finally gotten the best of them.  They wanted to be able to leave for one, two, even three weeks and travel without worry…


Now, let’s add this moment…In reading Twitter, I ran across this little gem from @joshua_becker at becomingminimalist

We own too much stuff. And it is stealing our joy!

And in an eye-opening moment, my world sort of got rocked.

It could not have become more clear if Joshua Becker had walked up and smacked me in the head!  What would possess us to move toward a life which included more and bigger property, more stuff, more work, more stress and less time for future endeavors?  And in the conversation that ensued, we arrived at several enlightened conclusions and even more questions:

 

Goals and plans change over time – The plans we made 12 years ago just don’t make sense the way they used to.  And over the next few days we examined our dreams and plans with real intention and honesty. It was an illuminating discussion about why we had wanted the land, the new home, the things we had accumulated…an awakening of sorts.


We are holding on to stuff for no good reason –  On the guest bedroom closet shelf are two brand new sleeping bags (wait for it…) which have been used exactly ONE time!  I don’t know why we have them…Anyone who knows me would realize that it is highly unlikely (read: NOT GONNA HAPPEN) that I will be camping anytime soon – My idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn with a hard pillow!  I am keeping them because I bought them, and therefore don’t want to fess up to a bad decision!  And then I started going through every closet …Just sayin’…


Some stuff we keep because we think it’s sentimental – It really just isn’t – In that trip through the closets I mentioned above, I came upon a bunch of collectibles that I have acquired over the years- they just aren’t my style anymore.  Or how about the hundreds of LP albums from 30 years ago that grace an entire shelf.  Now I can see perhaps keeping a couple of Beetles albums, but Sheena Easton???  Seriously?  We don’t even OWN a turntable anymore!  This little voyage of ours is causing us to closely examine what we value.


Paring down our stuff is energizing – As it turns out, owning the property and all of that farm equipment was ultimately causing us stress.  And the decision to sell, reduce and donate is lifting a weight off our shoulders.  It is freeing up space, finances, time and emotions.


We have gained a sense of gratitude for the things we have, and an intentionality about how and why we use and keep our possessions.  We are not getting rid of stuff just to be doing it.  It’s not about monetary value.   Instead, we ask, “Is this thing important to me, and why do I need to keep it?”


We have been given an impetus to examine this Encore Voyage and to have a critical conversation about what’s really important – Where do we want to go from here?  What are our dreams and wishes?  What adjustments do we need to make to our current path to live every day with simplicity and to its fullest?  What do we really value?


And so I’m planning to sell or donate four large tubs of children’s books.  They are my personal library, collected over a nearly 30 year career.  I thought I would be sentimental about giving them up – that somehow they represented imparting a love of reading in so many children…and in a way, they do.  But it is much more fitting that I share them with some new teacher, who will use them to continue the tradition.  The joy of those children and their journeys will always be in my heart.  It’s not the books that keep them there.

Lynn