Tag Archives: minimalism

Minimalism: How to Stop Spending

If there is only one lesson that minimalism has taught me, it’s that happiness does not come from things. I wish they would teach us this in school. After all, who uses calculus? When I was little, adults would tell me never to get a credit card but I never learned why until I was deep in debt. I went many years before I realized that I had a  problem and needed to stop spending.

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I grew up in a house with a lot of stuff. We weren’t hoarders. I guess you could say it was a house full of clutter. My mother was always one to collect trinkets like water globes, music boxes, and all sorts of home decor. To this day she puts up four Christmas trees every year. Talk about excessive. In reading this some of you may realize one of the reasons why I became a minimalist.

Minimalism Changed How I Thought About Spending

I used to go to Michael’s Arts and Crafts and easily drop $200+ on supplies for art projects that I never completed. It was almost like I had a need to be creative but for some reason did not want to focus on my writing. Instead I wanted to pursue every other creative endeavor on the planet. If any other writers are reading this, I’m sure they understand the feeling. It’s amazing how much time writers spend trying not to write.

I’ve been a minimalist now for almost 3 years. Within this year I had my partner drop me off at Michael’s Arts and Crafts for a few minutes while he went to run an errand. As I was walking through the store, I realized how much my state of mind had changed since I started down the minimalist journey. I walked up and down almost every aisle. I used to want to purchase every single item I laid my eyes on. Now, all I see is junk. I didn’t want to buy a single thing and I was so impressed and amazed with how much I had changed in such a short amount of time.

Three years may seem like a long time some of you but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t.

Do I still struggle with spending?

There are times. However, for the most part my spending is mostly done on food. I’m still very bad at gauging how much is eaten in a week. We often over purchase groceries only to end up throwing them away later.

Things like clothing and non-consumable items like home decor have been really easy to stay away from but I also adhere to a certain set of rules and ask myself certain questions before I make a purchase. This really helps me out when it comes to spending and I would like to share those tips with you.

Questions to Help You Stop Spending
Do I really need this? Or do I just want it?

So often we forget the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need.’ Take a look around you and you might discover that you already have everything you need. Food, water, shelter and a few sets of clothing is ‘need.’ Twenty pairs of shoes (I’m talking to women AND men here), twenty Phillip’s head screwdrivers, and twenty 12 liters of soda are ‘want.’ Sticking to water is better for your health anyway.

Where will I put this? How will it fit into my life and in my home?

I can say that I’ve purchased exercise equipment and furniture that had no place in my home. We have a two-bedroom apartment. Regardless of how big your home is, do you ever find yourself buying things just to ‘fill a void’ or because a magazine told you a console table or an accent chair was needed? Or would look good with a new shag rug? What purpose is that item serving other than taking up space?

Seriously, there is nothing wrong with a little empty space. If anything, it’s refreshing to come home to less stuff. It’s less to clean, less to pack up and move, less to deal with all together. Think about that.

What will I use this for? Am I just buying this one item for this one tiny purpose or will it serve other purposes as well?

Every purchased a funky kitchen utensil because that one recipe that you fixed once said it was required? How about that special saw because that one DIY project that you didn’t complete said it was required to perform the task? Or that huge bottle of oyster sauce for a recipe that only called for a teaspoon of it… If you’re going to purchase something, the more uses it has, the better.

How to Stop Spending on Clothing

Clothing has it’s own separate category. There are so many questions that apply to them alone. Here are the questions I would ask myself if I were tempted to buy a piece of clothing.

Does this fit me? Is this comfortable?

Fit and comfort are HUGE when it comes to your clothing. Who wants to be uncomfortable all day? Who wants to not look and feel their best? Clothing with the proper fit can make all the difference in appeal. This, in return, can affect your confidence and the way you present yourself. Be comfortable, be confident.

Can I afford this? Am I only purchasing this because of the brand-name? Is this a trend item will go out of style?

Please, please don’t buy something you can’t afford just because it’s a brand name and you have to have it. In fact, don’t ever buy anything you can’t afford. More importantly, brand names can be trendy. I can honestly say I’ve never judged a person based on whether or not they had a certain brand of jeans, shoes or polo.

Do I already have something else like this? 

Unless you’re like Steve Jobs and you wear the exact same thing every day, you don’t need fifteen of the same turtleneck. A little variety didn’t hurt anyone.

On Spending in General

It’s not that minimalists don’t purchase things. We definitely do. However, as Joshua Fields-Milburn says in his documentary with Ryan Nicodemus, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, “the danger is not consumption but compulsory consumption.”

I have been guilty of buying clothing on a whim only to throw it out a week later. Yes, a week. Either it didn’t fit, I didn’t like the way it looked on me, or it wasn’t comfortable. I am so guilty of this. But the important lesson here is that I realized my mistake and I learned from it.

Avoid the Store, If You Can

If you know that a certain store is too tempting for you, I strongly urge you to avoid it. I used to be in Target twice a week. I was there for groceries, clothing, makeup, hair products, and athletic equipment. Now I never go there. I was able to pay off my Target card last year and close the account.

When I do opt to spend money, I usually pay a little extra for a higher quality product. And if it’s clothing, I always try it on first to make sure that I’m comfortable and I like the fit. Something I never did before.

Don’t Throw Your Money Away

We all work hard for our money. Most of us work jobs that we don’t particularly care for. Don’t throw your hard earned money away. I spent years doing it and now I’m going to take a few years to recover from it. Now, I spend my money on wisely. I stopped purchasing books until I read the ones I already have. When spending money on films, I make sure it’s something I really want to see and enjoy.

But You’re a Writer? Don’t You Want People to Spend Money on Your Writing?

On every corner there are people trying to get you to spend. As a writer, I’m one of them. Of course I want you to purchase and read my stuff but I don’t write to make money. Any smart person knows not to write for money. Would I like to make a living off of it? Of course, but that’s not the drive behind any artistic craft. I write to provide a temporary escape from reality, for passion, for thrill and entertainment. I write for the same reason that people read, sing, compose, dance, and design.

So when making decisions on any kind of entertainment, whether it’s a book, film or album, I can’t say, “make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy and get value from” because you won’t know that until you’ve experienced it. What I am saying is not to go drop $500 on books in a day. Instead, read one, then buy another once you’ve finished.

I hope these questions and tips help next time you go shopping. Starting small and starting to question every purchase you make me be surprised how much money you will save.

Happy saving!

-RB

 

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Going Viral VS. Adding Value

Good evening, readers! For a while now I’ve wanted to write a blog post on the difference between going viral and adding value. I recently had a discussion with my boss’s boss involving this subject. My statement went something like this:

“I see a lot of that in this company, especially among the directors and VPs. I don’t know all of them but from the angle I’m looking at it’s almost as though they’re all trying to trump one another. Who can get their next 15 minutes of fame? Who can outdo the previous person? And instead of focusing on adding value to their workforce, they are trying to look good in front of one another and earn themselves bonuses.

My superior agreed. He nodded his head and said, “There seems to be a lot of throwing spaghetti at the ceiling and seeing which strands will stick. And a lot of them aren’t sticking right now.” Our company as a whole is in such a dire need to change and grow because we’ve been so stagnant for so long.

There is suddenly a mad scramble to catch up from years of being closed-minded and not forward thinking.

Our leaders are scrambling to “go viral.” They are not adding value to anyone’s lives. Instead, they are over-committing and volunteering themselves for things they know they can’t uphold. By delegating those things to their workforce (a workforce that often runs without their input and has its own commitments to uphold) we all end up stressed out and unhappy with each other.

How does “adding value” apply to my writing career?

When I look at my blog and my writing, I don’t want to be one of those people who’s just trying to go viral. I want my writing to mean something. I want to add value to other people. However, I realized that by pushing myself to write a blog post every day that some of the posts (like yesterday’s for example) are not always super engaging.

I don’t know if I will keep up the “one blog post a day” momentum going after this month is over. It has been an interesting challenge and I’ve been surprised that I’ve been able to keep it up. Now I’m in the home stretch so I want to push myself to finish this month out strong. However, I don’t want to fill everyone’s blog feeds and inboxes with crap posts that mean nothing and add no value.

What is “adding value” to you?

With that being said, you all know where I stand and hopefully a little more about my goals and what I seek to do and improve upon. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions I would love to hear from you in the comments below. I’m always open to blog post ideas. Therefore, if you have any questions about minimalism or being a writer, etc. I would absolutely love to hear from you.

I know that I don’t have a lot of original work out there yet but I work at it every day and I hope to have a readership that is comfortable with talking to me about my work. I’ve always enjoyed that sort of open collaboration with artists and fans. In the hopes that I can add value to people’s lives, I am going to continue to press forward with this challenge and try my best to come up with some more thought-provoking and engaging posts for all of you.

Thank you for reading!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Minimalism: 6 Common Things We Live Without

In the mail today we received our monthly donation bag from one of the local thrift shops. Before I became a minimalist, I used to let these bags pile up! Now, even after almost three years of being a minimalist, I don’t have enough bags. We’re always downsizing and finding new stuff that we can do without. Nowadays it’s mostly clothes that are donated, or a random piece of home decor that is no longer wanted.

Looking back, if anyone would have told me that one day I would be living peacefully without a microwave, I would have told them they were crazy. But a microwave isn’t the only common item that I no longer utilize. Here is a list of 6 common things that have left our lives since minimalism entered.

1. Dresser/Chest of Drawers

OK so this is really like two items but I’m lumping them together as one. Since we’ve downsized our clothing so much, we’ve realized that all of our clothes can fit in the closet. Yes, even underwear. Most items are on hangers but for things such as intimates, socks, and shorts we use a closet organizer. The organizer is made from cloth so it conveniently folds up if needed.

Being able to get rid of two huge pieces of furniture in the bedroom has really opened the place up. It feels brighter during the day and more peaceful during the night. Aspiring to live the life of a digital nomad, these are two less things we’d have to worry about getting rid of or moving!

2. Microwave

As mentioned before, we have no microwave. The one we had was given to me by my oldest brother when I moved out years ago. He had received it from our late grandparents when he moved out, years before that. It didn’t look that old and it works great. So why did we get rid of it?

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the microwave. Food cooked within it never tasted that great to me and on the rare occasion that we reheated leftovers, we always did so over the stove or in the oven. As it turns out, the microwave in my office at work was on the fritz! It would sometimes “cook” when the door was open… So I donated it to my office since it was still in good working condition. Now, ten other people can utilize it.

3. Dairy

I recently found out that I was lactose intolerant. I was mortified. Things like cheese, cow milk, sour cream, butter, and so much more were suddenly off my list. I soon discovered that even the smallest amount of dairy could set my stomach off. It seemed to happen almost overnight. Luckily, there are many alternatives to most dairy foods. However, I noticed within a week of ditching dairy that I lost 2 inches from my waist. Now, I’m already pretty tiny but my intestines must’ve been inflamed.

Some people at work gave me grief over it because I never officially went to a doctor but it doesn’t take a PhD to discover that when I eat dairy I have stomach pains and indigestion. Dropping the dairy also caused my lifelong battle with acne to clear up. Who knew? I sure didn’t! Occasionally I do deal with the pain and have pizza or lasagna. In the early days of experimentation, I learned to gauge just how much I could eat before pimples showed up the next day. Oh and most vitamin D in milk is added in later along with loads of sugar! Ugh! Ditch it!

4. Memberships and Emails

Minimalism isn’t only about clearing the physical clutter from your space, it’s also about clearing the digital and mental clutter. Personally, my email inbox is overflowing with all sorts of promotional offers, advertisements telling me what to spend my money on, notifications, etc. All of these things I signed up for at one time or another. I’ve been slowly going through and “unsubscribing” from mailing lists and canceling memberships to things that I don’t use.

One of the most recent ones was SiriusXM radio. Many memberships will require you to call and talk to a person to cancel. That person will probably argue with you, try to convince you to stay by offering you a better deal, etc. Stick to your guns. If you don’t use it – ditch it!

5. Sets of Drinking Glasses

Do we still have drinking glasses? Yes! Of course. However, we don’t have any that belong to a set. Most of our glasses consist of the ones they let you keep from wineries and breweries. Or sometimes when you go out to dinner, your cocktail comes in a special glass which the restaurant allows you to keep. No need to buy a set of 16 drinking glasses for 2 people. Instead, use the ones you got from a date night.

6. A Radio

Are radios still considered common items? I mean besides the one in your car? We no longer have any kind of stereo system in our home. Instead, we have a BOSE wireless speaker that connects to our smartphones if we want to listen to something loudly.

It may seem a bit strange to have links to products in a post about minimalism but keep in mind – many minimalists still spend money. We just don’t spend compulsively. We still consume just not to the level that advertising would like us to. Every purchase is thought out – Do I really need this? Where will I put this? What will I use this for? Many of us are also willing to spend extra money on something of quality and made to last as opposed to something cheap that will break. But that’s a topic for another post at another time!

PS- The televisions might be next!

Thank you for reading and if you have any common items that you live without, please share them in the comments below!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Swedish Death Cleaning: It’s Not As Crazy As It Sounds

In my journey towards minimalism, I once came across the phrase Swedish Death Cleaning. I guess you could say that “Swedish Death Cleaning” is a form of minimalism. After all, it entails going through your belongings and discarding what you don’t need. What’s the difference then?

Though not commonly heard of, Swedish Death Cleaning is beginning to make itself known. While minimalists practice living with less for their own sake, those who practice Swedish Death Cleaning are doing so for their loved ones.

The idea behind it is that when you pass on, you don’t want to leave a house, attic, basement and storage unit full of things for your loved ones to go through. Having experienced this first hand, it only prolongs the grief of the living.

Doing a favor for those who survive you…

In a previous post, I spoke on the death of my maternal grandparents, only months apart from one another, and the stuff that was kept in their home. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail in this post and I realize that it could have been much worse.

It did not help my extended family with the grieving process when we were all burdened by material objects. Objects that hold memories can be particularly sorrowful and troublesome. We were under a time constraint to empty the house and all of the grandchildren were grown, me being the youngest. We were all established with careers and cluttered households of our own. The elders wanted the antique furniture to stay within the family, however, the family had no room for it. The millennials suggested donating it. Generational preferences caused a few squabbles and added stress. Do your loved ones a favor and downsize. It’s never too late.

I used to date a hoarder…

Hoarder may be the wrong word. Perhaps he was just a slob on the verge of becoming a hoarder.  He was constantly at my place because he found it far more comfortable than his own home. That’s sad. Your home should be your sanctuary, an extension of self. He once said to me, “Now I know why your place is so neat, because you’re always cleaning.” At the time I hadn’t adopted minimalism. He was right. I spent a great deal of my free time cleaning.

I woke up early one morning and went to clean out his car. He drove a mid-size sedan. I used gloves to go through everything because water had seeped into the back door and soaked some of the papers which were then growing mold. After finding a bulbous black spider, who was very much alive, inside the spiral rings of a notebook, I quit. Three trash bags later, I had it clutter free and presented him with five large stacks of mail that had been neglected in the back seat. I wiped down all of the surfaces and helped him sort through the mail.

Pleased and grateful for how I had helped him, he said that things had simply gotten to a point where they were overwhelming and he didn’t know how to deal with them. The moral of this story – sometimes people need help and they don’t know how to ask. If you know someone who is struggling with clutter, offer a helping hand.

Whether it’s Minimalism or Swedish Death Cleaning…

…it helps you realize what’s important. To some people, they want more time to spend with their family. To other, they want more time to focus on their goals and follow their dreams. Those things can be difficult to accomplish when you’re constantly re-organizing or cleaning up. One of the reasons I became a minimalist almost three years ago was because I found that I was spending all of my free time cleaning and organizing instead of writing.

I hope I’m not sounding too much like a broken record when I say this but happiness doesn’t come from stuff. “Love people. Use Things. The opposite never works.”- Joshua Fields Milburn.

Further reading on Minimalism and Swedish Death Cleaning

Sarah DiGiulio’s blog post: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-swedish-death-cleaning-should-you-be-doing-it-ncna816511

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Blog art created with Canva.

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

5 Essential Items for the Traveling Minimalist

It may sound like an oxymoron to say that there are essential items you must have while being a minimalist. To clarify, being a minimalist doesn’t mean only owning a specific amount of items. Yes, there are people out there who only own 51 items or fewer. But that’s not what it means to be a minimalist. Ultimately, the goal is to only own things which bring you joy or serve a purpose. As a traveling minimalist, keep in mind that you don’t need to bring your entire home with you on a two week long trip. Just a few items will do. You’ll be surprised with how much you can live without!

Lately, we’ve been traveling a lot more than usual. In those travels, which I will be posting blogs about soon, I have learned how to pack and to travel as a minimalist. Below I’ve created a list of items that I never travel without. They are the only items that I pack other than my clothes and occasionally my laptop. However, I don’t consider my laptop an essential item. It’s something I can do without if need be.

5 Items for the Traveling Minimalist

1. Proper Luggage

This one may seem pretty obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people insist on having to check their luggage. I’ve been told that I’m not like most women in that I can pack for two weeks in a single carry-on. Whether that’s true or not is beside point. The point is, you can fit essentials in a carry-on no matter what your lifestyle or fashion sense.

As with many things, I purchased my luggage from Amazon. That being said, if you go to Amazon and type “luggage” into the search bar, you’re going to be greeted with thousands of results! Some of them are 5 piece sets…who needs all of that!? When selecting my perfect luggage I took price and reviews into consideration as well as carry-on size measurements. In the end I settled upon this:

And I usually only take one, not both! For less than $50 (click on the picture above to be taken to the Amazon page for more details) I got two sizable and durable pieces of luggage. I never have to worry about someone else taking them because they are never checked – always with me.

2. Smart Phone

It’s true. In today’s day and age there are still people without smart phones. I thought I was the last one to jump on the bandwagon! Smart phones are a great device to have with you during a trip. If you’re traveling abroad, you may need to invest in a travel phone or a separate SIM card for the country you’re going to. However, that is a whole different post. For domestic trips, a smart phone can hail you an Uber/Lyft, it can be used as your boarding pass (as opposed to having to track more paperwork), it serves as your camera, and you can book flights, hotel rooms and rent cars all from the palm of your hand.

We also use popular apps such as Yelp! to find great local places to eat, and Groupon to see if there are local deals for a date night. I often wonder how I ever traveled without a smart phone in the past. They truly make traveling that much more convenient. Not sure about a place? Check TripAdvisor for reviews. The pros to this one are endless.

3. Solar Charger

No joke. This little device saved me in Chicago. When we landed in Chicago this past Christmas, it was -2 degrees and I was naive enough to think that once the weather is below freezing that cold is cold and it all feels the same. Boy, was I wrong! After standing in the sub-zero temperatures waiting for an Uber that was on an entirely different level of a massive and foreign airport, my phone battery went from 53% to dead.

I panicked. That was our lifeline. Rushing back into the airport and embracing the warmth of the indoors, feeling rushed back into my fingers and all I could feel was pain. Early signs of hypothermia? Probably. Not being able to find a spare outlet, I pulled the solar charger out of our luggage and plugged the phone in. Immediate battery life= immediate happiness.

I’d love to be one of those people who can survive off the land…or at least I say things like that. But the reality of it is, I love the convenience of technology. Solar chargers are also great for camping trips if you need an emergency power source. Seriously, it was the best $20 I’ve ever spent. Spending the few days after Christmas in Chicago and Philadelphia, the cold temperatures took their toll on my phones battery. It was nice to know that I always had this back up with us.

4. Headphones

There is nothing quite like a good pair of headphones to drown out the noise of the plane’s engine, the screaming baby a few rows back or the city traffic outside of your hotel room window. Investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones is worth it. If you’re like me, you have trouble focusing on your work or writing in noisy, crowded places. I get distracted easily by busy airports, contented with watching people and eavesdropping on interesting conversations. (I know that sounds creepy but my play-writing professor in college said it’s the best way to get realistic dialogue.)

When it comes to noise-canceling, no one does it quite like Bose. They have the most superior sound technology by far and it’s the only brand I trust. But I’m kind of a brand snob now-a-days. Yes, they are a little on the pricier side. The wireless ones are almost double the price of the wired ones! But of the few things I recommend dropping a large sum of money on, I highly recommend these for avid travelers.

5. City Pass

This one is optional depending on where you are traveling to. Applicable to some major US and Canadian cities, the city pass saved tons of money and hours of time! In Chicago, the line to Chicago 360 and Chicago Skydeck had wait times of over 2 hours! I’m not kidding. However, with City Passes, you get to skip the lines. Instead of waiting 2-3 hours in line, you can be in the door, up the elevator, see the main attraction and come back down within 30-40 minutes…while others are still waiting in line and paying more money.

https://www.citypass.com/

When going on any trip, it’s important to plan ahead. If you can find anything like this that gives you package discounts and lets you skip the line- WORTH IT! I seriously felt like royalty being able to breeze past everyone in line. While traveling, there were very few others in the City Pass/Express Lines. Take advantage of it! And no, I’m not getting any kind of freebie or commission for sending you to them.

Those five essential items (along with underwear) are things that I never travel without. Even as a traveling minimalist, there are certain things I need for my own travel pleasure and peace of mind. Is there something that you can’t travel without? Please let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear your essential items for travel!

Happy Trails!

-RB

Blog Art created with Canva

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Minimalism and the Death of a Loved One

I debated about telling the sad story behind my grandparents’ death in the summer and fall of 2016. As an introduction to what is looking to be a rather long post that is in essence about minimalism, I figured I’d go ahead and spill the beans. After all, whenever a death occurs in the family, the living are left to decide on what to do with all of the stuff that is left behind. This was the first time that I had to deal with it since I started down the path of minimalism.

To begin at the beginning…

My mother’s parents have never been in good health. At least not since I can remember. My grandfather had diabetes. He was legally blind. He had open heart surgery twice, and was pretty much deaf, not to mention grumpy. General grumpiness seems to be very common among old men. My Nana survived breast cancer, colon cancer, open heart surgery, and a stroke that left her left side fairly unusable. They had both survived a lot.

Born a few months apart, he was born in July of 1930 and she was born that November, they ended up passing away a few months apart. He passed two weeks shy of his 86th birthday and she passed two months shy of hers.

Even though they had been in poor health for decades, things suddenly went downhill fast. My grandfather went to the hospital because gangrene had set in on one of his toes. From what I understand of diabetes, the feet usually go first because of poor blood circulation.

Once admitted into the hospital for the gangrene, the doctors removed one of his toes. He swore that he must have cut his foot on something and didn’t feel it. The infection set in rapidly. Unfortunately, removing the single toe wasn’t enough as the infection spread. It spread to a second toe which they also amputated only to realize that they still didn’t get it all and the infection continued to spread throughout his foot.

It became more apparent that the entire foot was going to have to be amputated in order to stop the spread of the infection. My grandfather didn’t want to do it and I can understand why. He hated that he had to rely on other people. He knew that he was getting older and I think it greatly upset him that he was getting to a point where he wouldn’t be able to do things by himself. Being legally blind hadn’t stopped him but being unable to walk would.

Meanwhile, while he’s in the hospital my grandparents have agreed to have work done on their home. They have recently discovered a termite infestation. You see my grandfather was so distrusting of people – under the impression that everyone was out to scam him –  and as a believer in “your thoughts create your reality,” I can see why he constantly attracted those types of people into his life because he always thought the worst of people.

Years ago he stopped inspecting the house for termites. And guess what? The termites came. When the inspector came to the house, they found extensive damage. The inspector explained that termite tunnels are normally as big around as a spaghetti noodle but the ones he had found were as large as his forearm.

Just before repairs are to begin on my grandparents’ home, my Nana was alone one night and fell. She fractured her wrist, broke her pelvis and part of her spine. She was hospitalized. Shortly after that, my grandfather was informed that gangrene had been found in the heel of the opposite foot. They would amputate again.

Once out of the hospital, they arrived at the same Rehab Center across the hall from one another. He called for her often and she hobbled across the hallway with her cane, disregarding any pain she may have felt, to go take care of a man who she’s known for 70 years. One night she heard a commotion in the hallway and stood up only to see him wheeled past her. The nurses told her, “It’s after midnight. Go back to bed.” My grandfather died that night.

When I went to visit her afterwards, she cried and said, “I wasn’t there with him.” I told her that wasn’t true. I said, “had you not fallen and injured yourself, you would have been at home, asleep, miles away when he passed. Because you’re here, you were right across the hall and you were with him everyday until the end.”

She seemed to feel a little better after that explanation. After her release from rehab, she stayed with my parents while the work started on her home. The construction company said it would only take a week or two. They ended up taking over a month. During that month my grandmother was doing very well until one night she took a turn for the worse. She threw up bile all night and the next day my mother called an ambulance. She spent the next two weeks in the hospital. For 7-8 of those days she didn’t eat anything and she dropped down to 87 pounds. Is was very hard seeing her that way and it’s not how I choose to remember her. Just like my grandfather without feet is not how I choose to remember him.

She never came back home after that visit in the hospital. She died there and in October we had a joint service for both of them at St. Joan of Arc Church.

The Aftermath, a Minimalism Nightmare

I had been through the loss of both of my dad’s parents but my mom’s parents lived two doors down the whole time I was growing up there. There were often visits after school for milk and cookies. And it was especially difficult that we lost them both so close together. So next became the difficult task of cleaning out their house. And this is where the minimalism kicks in.

Because they had a reverse mortgage on their home, they did not own the home and therefore we could not sell it. The home went back to the bank and the bank gave us one month to clear it out. For two people who never had friends over, they certainly had a lot of stuff. Perhaps it was because they grew up with the mentality of the Depression era where you held on to everything you had. They owned sets of China which hadn’t been used in years. Five different sets of silverware, closets filled with bed sheets and rarely worn clothes. They kept everything. Antique furniture became a point of contention as no one had room for it but no one wanted it to leave the family.

The money that my grandparents had saved for their children was spent on hospital bills and house repairs. We inherited stuff that had accumulated over decades. It was a grueling process to go through everything and know all of the memories attached to each item. However, I think it helped my mother realize what a burden her house would be on her children when my parents pass away.

Seeing the brighter side of minimalism

Like my grandparents’ house, my parents’ house is filled with decades of memories. Items such as old batons and dancing costumes set abandoned in a back room. The attic is overflowing with toys that my older brothers had as toddlers. A filing cabinet in my parents’ closet holds drawings from our elementary school years. Why do we hold onto these things? Happiness never lies in the past. To keep a favorite drawing is one thing but to keep all of them? We certainly didn’t want them.

I once cleaned out my parents’ closet. It was overflowing with clothing that was sometimes in my mother’s case, not age appropriate. Many of the items she hadn’t worn in years or had never worn at all by the evidence of the price tag still hanging from them.

Things to take away…

The point of this story is that holding onto things isn’t the answer. You’ll find that with most material objects, once they are gone, you won’t miss them. Holding on to stuff creates more grief for your loved ones once you pass from this world. I will admit, I took some small furniture and items from my grandparents’ house. Now, two years have passed and I’ve since turned around and re-donated all of those items except 6. What did I keep?

  1. My grandfather’s rocking chair/recliner. We got rid of our loveseat and replaced it with this recliner.
  2. A small glass which I often drank milk out of as a child when I would venture up after school for cookies and milk.
  3. An old, standing rotary phone. It still looks pretty damn cool and works if you have a land line. Will I keep it forever? It’s doubtful.
  4. An incense burner that used to sit on top of their piano. My two oldest brothers would often get to light a cone of incense as a treat if they were good when they visited as boys. I will keep this above all the other items. I cleaned it with vinegar.
  5. A mirror.
  6. A washer and dryer. I suppose that’s two items but they go hand in hand. Previously, we didn’t have one and were using quarters at the apartments local facility down the street.

Try not to get too caught up in the memory of objects. Even if you’ve been a minimalist for a while, it can be tempting. Don’t let your brother guilt you into taking several sets of glassware because “they look cool” or “should stay in the family.”

In hindsight, I ended up re-cluttering my home only to re-donate. Holding on to their things can hinder people from letting go of the grieving process. It’s easier to move on when you don’t have the past holding you down. It doesn’t matter if the memories are good or bad either. Now is the time to make new memories by living your life to the fullest today.

Let go.

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

One Year of Minimalism: 1000 Item Challenge

Last September, I opened my heart and mind to the concept of minimalism. For years, I had cringed whenever I heard the word, not truly understanding what it meant. For some reason, September 2015 was a turning point and I decided to embrace it. I cursed myself for not trying it sooner.

This year, to celebrate a whole year of developing a minimalist mentality and paying off 30% of my debt, I have decided to celebrate by giving away more. I’m donating/throwing away 1,000 items.

The Minimalism Challenge

When I started this challenge a little over two weeks ago, I thought it would be tough. However, after the first weekend, I had already surpassed 700 items. By that point, I had fooled myself into thinking it was going to be easy. As you can see by my numbers below, I began to struggle.

The object is to only have things in your home that serve a purpose or you bring joy.

Days:

  1. 265
  2. 226
  3. 283
  4. 5
  5. 80
  6. 97= total of 956.
  7. 12
  8. 0
  9. 2
  10. 22
  11. 0
  12. 0
  13. 0
  14. 1
  15. 4
  16. 3

I feel like I’ve donated or thrown away everything that I can at this point without letting go of something I need or cherish. There may be things that I don’t wish to give up now that I’ll be fine parting with a year later.

Starting out, it didn’t feel like a minimalist challenge. In the course of one year, I hadn’t acquired a lot of things but I had learned to let go of things that didn’t matter; things that mattered to me last year that I wasn’t willing to part with but this year, I could. It shows personal growth. It shows a lack of need for a life filled with material things.

Keep donating!

What are some of the things I was willing to part with this year that I couldn’t last year? Here was where I got the largest amount of “stuff” from.

  1. Craft supplies. Old paint, beads, soap-making dyes and molds, candle making molds. Every craft had become a distraction from the real craft I wanted to pursue- writing.
    I use to make candles, soaps and essential oils. In this box, you can see some of the old bottles I used.

    Here, you can see old stencils, paints and materials for craft projects – some of which I never even started.
  2. Clothes and Jewelry. There are always clothes to donate, old bed sheets, a blanket. Jewelry that I don’t wear.
    I’ve never been a huge jewelry person yet I had tons of it! Most of them had been gifts from people who didn’t know me too well…

    Believe it or not, clothing and kitchenware were my two biggest culprits next to books and half-used craft supplies.
  3. Kitchenware. Bake ware that is unused. Extra handfuls of silverware, baking trays, Tupperware that is missing lids.
    A box full of unnecessary kitchen items.
    Not just these but all the junk behind them too!

    Old mixing bowls from a deceased relative…

Some of these items are more geared towards females but where I had too many craft supplies, you may have too many old car parts that need to be fixed…that you know you haven’t repaired in five years and you’re not going to. I know a number of guys who have more pairs of shoes than I do writing utensils…

…A Caveat

By default, females are going to have more things. Think about it, a man’s underwear consists of one garment. A woman’s consists of two. In addition, women have more styles of clothing and it’s socially acceptable for us to have more jewelry, make-up, hair products because society pressures us more about our appearance. These societal “norms” have been (thankfully) crumbling within the last few decades. Men and women are slowly but surely becoming more and more equal. It’s possible I’m being biased. Do you have old action figures that have been taken out of the box and aren’t worth anything? Golf clubs that never get used and can be sold for spare change?

Keep Letting Go!

As we enter the “giving” season, the season of sharing and being thankful, I challenge all of you to purge the clutter. It doesn’t have to be 1,000 items. Donate five shirts to charity, or two spare blankets as the weather begins to chill. If there are only two people living in your household, do you really need 3 different sets of plates (each a set of 8+)?? How many coffee mugs get used at one time? Drinking glasses? Spatulas? Soup Ladles?

Do not be afraid to let go. You don’t have to become a minimalist. I’m not asking you to join a cult.

If you’re not sure where to start, Marie Kondo makes a living by helping people “tidy-up” their homes. On the contrary, the “KonMari Method” (as she calls it) is not as extreme as minimalism but the concepts are the same. If you need help getting started, I highly recommend her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.


Note: We can sometimes inherit a lot of junk from deceased relatives. I’d love to share my story about that with you. Please check out my post: Minimalism and the Death of a Loved One.


 

Photo Art © Hemul | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.