A Case for Minimalism

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.

~Henry David Thoreau~

In Navy boot camp, we had a saying(or rather, the Company Commanders had a saying): If it didn’t come in your sea-bag, you don’t need it.  I served for 7 years – some of which, were spent on board ship.  At minimum, you were assigned a coffin rack, and one stand-up locker. The rack, when raised, offered separate compartments for storage. The stand-up lockers were about waist-high, and about 12-18 inches wide. The onus was on you, to figure out how to fit your uniforms, and enough toiletries and civilian clothes for the next 6 months.

berthing
Shipboard living quarters, or, berthing.

And thus began and appreciation of minimalism, and the art of simple living. If this is something you might want to implement, but aren’t sure where to start, consider the following:

What Minimalism Is

  • Learning what you can live with/without;
  • Examining your daily habits, and how this ties in with your values and goals;
  • Leveraging your resources toward things that nurture your habits, values and goals;

 What Minimalism Isn’t

  • Depriving oneself – no, you don’t need to give up all your possessions;
  • Living as an ascetic (yes, we know you have to spend money)

ascetic

I was particularly inspired by the book: Everything that Remains. Part memoir, part self-help, it is an eye-opening discussion on the perils of mindless consumerism, our emotional attachment to things, and how to re-prioritize your purchases.

 Did You Know?

Americans love our stuff. We’ll even pay money to store our stuff. According to consumerreports.com, in 1995, just 1 in 17 households rented storage unit. As of 2016 it is now 1 in 10. Even still, the Self Storage Association reports that the United States now has 2.3 billion square feet devoted to self-storage space.

Annual industry revenue for self-storage is about $38 billion, and the average monthly cost for a storage unit is $91.14 (sparefoot.com).

What Does Minimalism Look Like?

For me, minimalism equals small space living. I don’t have a whole lot of furniture, and the furniture I do have is multi-functional – meaning, a trunk serves as both a place to sit, and a storage for blankets. As mentioned before, my desire to live simply was inspired by having lived onboard ship during my time in the Navy.

Naturally, because I don’t have a lot of space to begin with, that is what curbs my spending. I know that if I buy something, I have to get rid of something else.

smallspace

So You Wanna Try Simple Living?Suggested Next Steps

  • Consider the impact of excess “stuff” in your life;
  • Research resources on minimalism and find what works best for you;
  • Start small with something like a 30-day de-clutter challenge;
  • Use a system such as, Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of life, to help prioritize, and make more mindful purchases.

Note: Although the Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life  primarily focuses on goal setting, it can apply to simple living as well. Ideally, you should invest in items/experiences that will enhance at least 1 or more of these areas in your life.

Wrapping it all up:

Human desire is infinite. We will always want things. Think back to when internet access first hit the scene. Everyone rushed out to get access to dial-up. Then dial up was ditched for DSL. We then dumped DSL for Wi-Fi. And don’t get me started on music’s transition from the record player to streaming subscriptions. As new things are presented, we want them, and we need to understand that. But we also need to temper our desires, and understand when enough is enough.

For additional resources on minimalism, visit:

Where many of the clothes you throw away end up

The Art of Letting Go – TED Talk

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Ideas for your Tiny Apartment

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We don’t owe anyone the Benefit of the Doubt

Benefit of the doubt:

a concession that a person or fact must be regarded as correct or justified, if the contrary has not been proven.

BenefitoftheDoubt

I once dated (briefly) a gentleman who, during our first date, was unapologetic in letting me know that he was only looking for something physical. Given that this wasn’t the space I was in, I’d pretty much checked out of the conversation. Anything he said after that, sounded like the waw-waw-waw of Charlie Brown’s teacher.  I’d no expectation of him after that. Having recognized involving myself with him would be breaking my own heart, I kept him at bay. Still, he’d pop up every now and again, but I had strict boundaries, and kept the conversations friendly, but never familiar. These days, I do not to try to convince someone they should want what I want; I just let them go be great. Somewhere else.

During one particular exchange, he’d come to some kind of “epiphany” and wanted to see about exploring the possibility of being in a relationship. Not surprisingly, I questioned the authenticity of this new-found openness, and was rightly suspicious. It seemed to have come out of nowhere. I’d been down this road before: not heeding the early declarations made by men; hanging around, hoping they’d see “how great” I was, and change their minds. But that was no longer the case.

“You know”, he said. You should really give me the benefit of the doubt.” The audacity of such a demand was quite troubling: here is someone who flat-out told me he was only interested in sex, but now expected the benefit of the doubt? Women are often shamed into offering this, and (its distant cousin) forgiveness, to people who, most often, do not deserve it.

Know that no one, especially off the rip, is entitled to your benefit of the doubt. While you don’t get to disregard their humanity, you don’t owe them much else. Especially if they’ve not demonstrated anything that would warrant its distribution.

“{…}Cleave ever to the sunnier side of {healthy} doubt.”

~Alfred Lord Tennyson~

Note: The benefit of the doubt, to me, is a distant cousin of forgiveness. Unbeknownst to me, the concept has a few layers(!).  I came across a rather insightful video by Prager U that gives a brief overview of said layers.

 

 

 

 

 

October is National Book Month!

Did you know that October is National Book Month?

books

In the spirit of celebration, here are a few that will forever have a place in my heart – and, on my bookshelf. Perhaps they too, will find a place in yours:

48 Laws of Power – By Robert Green

I liken this book to a reference guide, in that it shouldn’t be approached as a novel. It is a rather dense, and heavy read. When I first got it, I did try reading it in the traditional sense, but soon discovered it was easier to digest in pieces. Admittedly, some(maybe even all)  of the Laws will rub you the wrong way. But I urge you to push through. Even if you don’t necessarily agree, or actively practice any of the laws, having an understanding of them can help recognize when one may be being used on you. My favorite Laws included:

  • Win through your actions, never through argument;
  • Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky;
  • Despise the free lunch;
  • When asking for help appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

I saw so much of myself in Jeannette, the main protagonist of this memoir. Like her, I’m not a particularly “flashy” woman, but what I lack in flash, I make up in internal fortitude. By all accounts, one could say that parents were irresponsible nomads. Throughout the book, despite her parents short comings, they were neither blamed, nor let off the hook. I liked how the author was able to reconcile this within herself, and alchemize her challenging childhood, to eventually show up in the world as a well-adjusted adult. When I saw they made a movie, I rushed to see it. Woody Harrelson nails it as Rex Walls. With all books-turned-movies though, read the book first.

10% Happier – Dan Harris

There was a popular 80’s song by Tears for Fears called “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” In today’s world though, everybody wants to be happy, natural array of human emotions, be damned. I found this book insightful, cheeky and realistic. It taught me that we shouldn’t get too caught up in making drastic changes, in our pursuit of happiness. Oftentimes, we assume that if an adjustment isn’t a grand production, it won’t make much difference. Quite the contrary: small adjustments in our everyday lives, are indeed impactful.

Whether you’re looking for something for a solo-read, or, for your next book club, hopefully, one of these titles piqued your interests.

Are there some other books that are mainstays on your bookshelf? Share them in the comments!

 

 

Tangible Ways to Love Yourself

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” –Augusten Burroughs

Self-love is defined as: a regard for one’s own well-being and happiness. Sounds simple enough, right? The concept is thrown around as a cure-all for any number of quandaries we might find ourselves in: just got dumped? Love yourself. Lost your job? Love yourself. Business idea rejected? Love yourself.

loveyourself
Go on and hug yourself after seeing this picture.

However; most of us haven’t a clue about the actual execution of self-love. So we default to what we think it means. We get a new hair cut. Get some new clothes. Soak in lavender Epsom salts. Get weekly massages. And don’t get me wrong; those things are important. But we need to take it a step further. Here are a few things that fortify me, when in the throes of the ebb and flow of life:

Make & Keep Promises to Yourself

Conventional wisdom tells us that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. There’s a whole science behind it all, how your brain can create new neural pathways(called neural plasticity) through the introduction, and repetition of new habits. This is where your new promises come in. Decide that for the next 21 days, you’re going to commit to some new change. It could be anything: taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Making your bed each morning. Doing 25 sit ups a day. Abstaining from coffee. Don’t get too caught up in the weeds about what will happen after the 21 days; just focus on keeping the promise to yourself. Bearing witness to your ability to see things through builds confidence, so when the seeds of doubt attempt to take root, you’ll have a repertoire of experiences that highlight your capabilities.

Beware of Pathological Positivity

Many movements have come about, regarding the importance of positive thinking. But to me, it has become pathological in nature. Everywhere you turn, we are hit over the head with positivity. Any normal expression of doubt or fear, is met with a barrage of advice as to why you shouldn’t feel that way…advice that more than likely, you never asked for in the first place.

everythingisfine
How you look, pretending to be happy all the time, while ignoring life’s catastrophes.

The truth is, humans are “a wildly diverse group of smelly creatures” (Mark Manson), and possess an array of complex emotions. Attempts to maintain one state of  being in favor of another, is unrealistic, and does us no good. Further, it robs us of the chance to peel back the layers of our feelings, in order to address them. Relieve yourself of pathological positivity, and the pressure to be happy all the damn time. Some days, positivity can suck it.

Instead, strive for authenticity. So go on. Throw yourself a pity party. But be sure to leave before your feet start to hurt.

Who Are You?

Audre Lorde once said: If I didn’t define myself for myself,  I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.  Understand that there will be no shortage of folks who will make assumptions about you:  as a woman. As a Black woman. As a woman over 40. Free yourself of the knee-jerk reaction to dispel their myths about you, as they’ve already decided who you are, and any effort to convince them otherwise is an exercise in futility. Insert the old adage “never wrestle with a pig…” here.

whoareyou
“Who are you…who, who, who, who…I really wanna know” ~The Who

This isn’t to flippantly declare that you shouldn’t care about what anyone thinks – you SHOULD care about what the people who matter most, think of you. Invest your energy into developing and maintaining a strong sense of self. What are your values? Tolerance levels? What is your baseline disposition? What makes you, well, you? Turns out, humanity is fickle at best. We exalt people to messianic status, only to tear them down, watching with glee, as they fall from grace. And who wants to anchor their sense of being to that??

So develop yourself. Then trust yourself.  The more insight you have into who you are, the more you can call upon this fortitude of self to shield you from others. Plus Audre said it. So don’t get eaten alive.

As Burroughs so clearly stated, we are “made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”  And that’s okay. By keeping promises to ourselves, steering clear of pathological positivity, and getting clear about who we are, we can learn to weave our web of periodic foible, into gold.