Tag Archives: Intentional Living

My Complete Capsule Wardrobe

This is every single piece of clothing I own for all seasons, all occasions, and all moods. I consider it a capsule because it has a very basic, but strong frame with a few specialties. It is simple, versatile, and put together. I love the style I’ve curated and feel confident wearing my clothes. It’s basically a uniform, but with variations for weather and special occasions.

After delivering my last baby, I got rid of a bunch of maternity clothes and added a few needed items. Now I feel like I’m “finished” – at least for a while. I believe I have everything I need and am not really wanting for anything. I expect the next changes to be made to my wardrobe will be to remove items, from being too worn or not fitting anymore once I get my pre-pregnancy figure back. Otherwise, I will just replace as needed.

Instead of storing out-of-season clothing in the attic or boxes, all of my clothes are ready and available all year long (something I learned from Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). This makes being prepared for weird out-of-season weather super easy and it eliminates  the chore of swapping clothes out of storage every season. I’m always a fan of less chores.

And now… the complete list!

Dans Mon Armoire (27 hangers, 1 shelf)
1. blue striped tank-top
2. yellow flower tank-top
3. white button-up tank-top
4. blue button-up tank-top
5. blue dot button-up tank-top
6. black v-neck t-shirt
7. grey v-neck t-shirt
8. blue v-neck t-shirt
9. white v-neck t-shirt
10. white v-neck t-shirt
11. white v-neck t-shirt
12. blue long-sleeve button-up
13. red long-sleeve button-up
14. black long-sleeve button-up
15. blue wrap dress
16. purple wrap dress
17. black pocket dress
18. blue striped maxi-dress
19. black maxi-dress
20. purple and yellow flower dress
21. beaded dress (with 2 slips – white and purple)
22. black and gold sequin dress
23. blue patterned maxi-dress (maternity)
24. blue gown
25. floral sweater
26. yellow flower scarf
27. purple flower scarf
28. blue patterned scarf
29. straw hat
30. black zip-up hoodie
31-40. my shoes (10)

Dans ma vaisselle (3 large drawers)
41. blue v-neck sweater
42. purple v-neck sweater
43. black v-neck sweater
44. white chunky knit sweater
45. white knit hoodie
46. grey shorts
47. blue shorts
48. purple shorts
49. blue jean shorts
50. blue jeans
51. medium-wash blue jeans
52. dark-wash blue jeans
53. tube skirt (maternity)
54-65. underwear (12)
66-69. bras (4)
70-73. pajama tank tops (4)
74-76. pajama t-shirts (3)
77-79. pajama long-sleeve shirts (2)
80. pajama shorts romper
81. pajama pants
82. leggings
83-96. long socks (14)
97-103. short socks (7)
104-106. tights (3)
107. knit scarf
108. leather gloves
109. fingerless gloves
110. knit gloves
111. knit hat
112. bikini
113. swimsuit
114. sarong
115. work jeans
116. long-sleeve work shirt
117. short-sleeve work shirt
118-121. sports bras (3)
122-123. sports tops (2)
124. sports pants
125. sports capris
126. tennis skirt
127. snow pants

Dans le placard (4 hangers)
128. light blue jean jacket
129. dark blue trench coat (with removable liner)
130. snow coat

130 items might seem like a lot compared to Project 333‘s limit of 33, but I’m pleasantly surprised by my number of 130. True, it doesn’t include jewelry or bags, but I’m hardly wearing any now anyway. And it does include all undergarments, exercise/specialty clothing, and clothing for the entire spectrum of weather in New Jersey – from below freezing to nearly 100°F – which Project 333 does not always encompass. Also, Project 333 allows 33 items of clothing each season (33 items for 3 months – 333, get it?), so 132 items are allowed for the year – so I’ve got even less!

It’s not a contest, though (even though I won). It’s about having less clothing choices to make getting dressed everyday easier. I think Project 333 is great. I learned a lot from when I did it. It helped me figure out what I like to wear, to be mindful of curating pieces that coordinate, and realizing I really don’t need as many clothes as I had once owned to be properly dressed.

Go forth – clear your closet, clear your mind, and look and feel fabulous!

When Are Clothes “Worn Out”?

I understand that I’m supposed to replace things when they get worn out. But when, exactly, is that? When it is no longer “like new”? When it breaks completely? When I’m no longer comfortable using it?

I’ve been thinking about this relating to clothes lately, since I replaced those shoes. They weren’t totally worn out, but I replaced them anyway because they stopped serving their function for me.

But let’s take a shirt, say, that has stains on it. It still functions as a shirt. It could still be soft and comfortable and a nice style and fit well and be loved. Should the shirt be replaced only if the stain bothers the wearer? Or because it has a certain societal connotations to wear stained clothes? Like, that person is dirty or that person can’t afford new clothes or what a slob that person is.

I guess even then it comes down to whether those connotations bother the wearer or not. Do they give a hoot about what other people think of them? Or are they confident to wear a stained shirt because they know they’re not dirty or broke or a slob? Just that, maybe, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in a restaurant or something.

In some situations, it may not even be up to the wearer to decide to replace a stained shirt or not. A boss may say, “You can’t wear that here – you need to look presentable”, i.e. more put together, i.e. not like a dirty, poor, slob. Definitely different jobs have different standards. Someone working retail in a fancy purse store would be required to dress very differently than someone who works in the kitchen at a local restaurant.

It may not always be a job that tries to dictate what someone wears, either. It may be a small group of peers, the culture at large, or someone’s own internal beliefs about how they think others are pressuring them, even if no one really is.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to figure out, is when clothes are too worn out for me. I wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to work, but I’m fine wearing them at home. I know I’m not a slob, but I do feel a bit slobby when I wear them. But honestly, my infant could spit up on me at any moment, so why bother dressing nicely? Except, from my experience, dressing nicely can improve mood and self-confidence. Even if no one else sees me.

Okay, I’m going around and around here. Wearing slightly worn clothes is still different from deciding when to get rid of items that are worn out. My sneakers: not totally worn out, but I got rid of them anyway. My sandals: really showing wear now. The bottom soles have been re-glued, the color is faded, the inner soles are worn down, the stitching is frayed, the straps are a bit stretched out. But they are still serving their function as sandals for me.

How can I tell the difference between when something is worn in and loved and comfortable and a staple, distinctive piece for me or when it is worn out and just looks bad? Oh jeez, I just realized that answer is probably different for everybody. So I have to make up my own rules. Or just go with my gut for when it’s time to let go of each item? Whew! So much pressure. Life is so hard!

Just kidding.

Deciding when clothes are too worn is an individual decision based on personal comfort levels, job requirements, style expression, and also budget. For me, it is also a balance between getting the most use out of a purchase (the most bang for my buck, as they say) while also not feeling like I’m wearing dirty rags.

I suppose like many things in life, this decision is a complicated mix of rational thought and gut feeling. Making decisions that way can be scary because what if… x 1,000, but the more I make decisions this way, the better I get at it. So, you know, leveling up at life in general.

Anyway. I guess that’s all I’ve got to ramble on about this subject for now. Stay tuned for a detailed list of my complete capsule wardrobe! (I’m scared it’s going to be even bigger than I think it is…)

My Minimal Shoe Collection

I recently bought new sneakers. I was hesitant at first because I already had sneakers that weren’t totally worn out. But they did have a pretty big flaw – the rubber along the side of the toes came apart – that made the shoes very uncomfortable. The laces’ aglets or pebbles would get stuck constantly and cause discomfort.

I already tried gluing the rubber back to the canvas, but it didn’t even last a day. So even though they weren’t totally worn out, I felt comfortable replacing them because one of the most important functions my sneakers must accomplish is “be comfortable”.

Since I brought in a new pair of shoes, though, I must send out an old pair.  Easy this time since sneakers are replacing sneakers. I will donate them because, like I said, they aren’t very worn. Maybe someone can figure out how to fix that rubber, or maybe it won’t bother someone else as much as it bothered my feet.

One pair in, one pair out, to keep my shoe collection small. I keep all of my shoes on one shelf in my closet (except for my dirty lawn-mowing shoes).

Here are the shoes that are in my minimal collection:

  • Casual Sneakers. For everyday comfort and nature.
  • Running sneakers. For exercise and sports (mostly tennis).
  • Sandals. For everyday coolness and breathe-ability.
  • Flip flops. For the beach and public showers.
  • 2 high heels. For fancy-times. I really don’t need 2 pairs. After they are worn, I will only keep one pair of high heels in my collection. Or possibly replace them with fancy flats. Or keep one pair high heels and one pair fancy flats. Because even though flats are soooo much more practical, high heels just add that sexy flair I want sometimes.
  • Vibrams. For kayaking and other water adventures.
  • Causal boots. For everyday warmth.
  • Waterproof work boots. For rain, snow, and yard work.
  • Steel-toe sneakers. For mowing the lawn.

Maybe 10 pairs of shoes is way more than some people need. Maybe it’s less than others need. I could probably slim down a little – find one pair to satisfy what my sandals and flip flops do, one pair for work and lawn mowing, one fancy pair – but right now I’m working with what I’ve already got. I’ll probably do that slimming down as they wear out.

I don’t buy shoes often now, definitely not as often as I used to. I used to have a dozen pairs of flip flops, 3 pairs of casual sneakers, several pairs of sandals, all in different colors for different “options” in my outfits. It is so much easier to have fewer shoes in colors already coordinated with my capsule wardrobe/personal uniform. Much less decision fatigue and a lot more free space in my closet.

My life is so much easier since I began seeing shoes as functional, yet stylish, instruments instead of fashion accessories. Forget fashion, now I buy shoes that are my style. It’s easier to choose what to wear each day when each shoe serves a purpose. They all coordinate with all of my clothes already, so I choose the pair that goes with my planned activity.

Simple. Useful. Enjoyable.

There’s More Than One Way to Be Happy

Sometimes, I think, we get an idea in our heads and we lock onto it as the way to make us happy, despite being somewhat arbitrary. It could be owning a certain thing, accomplishing a certain goal, being with a certain person, or having a certain job. But from what I’ve experienced so far in my life, there are infinite ways to be happy.

I’ve had my eye on a beautiful floral muslin throw blanket for months, but haven’t bought it because it’s a bit expensive. Maybe buying that blanket will make me happy — I do find looking at pictures of it beautiful and pleasing — but maybe I’ll be just as happy without it. Or maybe I’ll be happier. Maybe loving that blanket so much will make me upset if something gets spilled on it or if the cat scratches a hole in it.

I was extremely happy with my MacBook for the 11 years I used it. I was so happy with the computer that I thought when it needed replacing, I would just replace it with the same yet newer model. It didn’t work out that way, but I am still really happy with my Chromebook. And it doesn’t feel like a different kind of happiness either. I was happy with what my MacBook could do and I’m happy with what my Chromebook can do. I’m just happy. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just made myself easy to please.

The movie “La La Land” is a good example of this, I think. SPOILER ALERT. The first time I saw the movie, I enjoyed it very much, but hated the ending. Why couldn’t they be together? I wanted them to be together! Why tell us their story if they don’t end up together? Years of perfect cinematic bliss have conditioned me to want the story arc with the predictable ending. But life is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean we still can’t end up happy. Just like the characters in “La La Land”. They went separate ways, despite agreeing they would both still love each other, and they were still happy.

Is it just that we think we are so wise we could absolutely know what was best for us to make us happy? I mean, there are infinite possibilities in this world. How could we possibly know what will make us happy? Why would we limit it to just one or very few things?

What if being happy was just a choice we made. No matter how things were going in our lives — what we owned, who we were with, the work we did — we just decided to be happy anyway. Or found a way to be happy with what we had. Gratitude, I believe, is a big part of this. And also giving up a bit of control. Giving up trying to control every aspect of our lives and instead focusing on controlling how we react. Letting stress go in favor of trusting in the universe to give us what we need (not necessarily what we think we want) and figuring out how to be happy no matter what we’re dealt.

I’ve heard stories of it happening. People who have had real shit cards dealt in their lives, but who are happy, warm, kind, and generous anyway. Maybe we can all try this, no matter how (seemingly) small the circumstance. Instead of driving ourselves crazy to get to that 1 holy grail of happiness we picked out, let’s be happy with all the little pebbles that cross our paths.

Or let’s just try to accept that there is more than one way to be happy. Reminding ourselves of that is sure to help us get over disappointments more quickly than if the stakes are always high. A little prompt that’s more concrete than indistinct optimism: There is more than one way to be happy.

How to Go Places and Do Things With Kids

Bringing children along anywhere complicates things. They are still not totally independent or competent at everyday tasks, let alone whatever it takes to make a journey or explore an activity. So what I try to do is this: make everything else (within my control, of course) as simple as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Don’t Bring Snacks. Plan proper and fulfilling meals, whether you bring it yourself or buy it out, and nobody will go hungry. Snacks entail more to pack, more time to consume, and more to clean up. Our family doesn’t ever snack so not having snacks at an outing isn’t a big deal. If your kids are used to snacking, hopefully the change in scenery will keep their minds off of snacks. Otherwise you may have to remind them that they will survive until the next meal.
  • Drink Only Water. Preferably in reusable bottles. (I am still hunting for the perfect child-friendly, spill-proof bottle myself.) Water is the most thirst-quenching and body-nourishing liquid there is. If water is spilled, it doesn’t stain, get sticky, or smell – it just dries, easy-peasy, with little or no clean-up. A properly hydrated family is a pleasant family. Just remember those potty breaks!
  • Don’t Bring Anything “Just In Case”. There are things you know you will need for any given outing. Skip the things you don’t actually need and would just bring for peace of mind or to feel a bit more comfortable. Lugging around and keeping track of extra items adds stress and physical bulk. Most of the time, you won’t even notice you are without those “just in case” items. Other times, you might be a bit less comfortable. Instead of lugging around extra things, you could practice getting comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. You will survive.
  • If Bringing Toys, Only Bring a Few. Ideally, bring simple toys, without batteries or small parts, that the whole family can use – like a Frisbee, ball, a bucket and a couple of shovels. I wouldn’t bring favorites that would cause a tragedy if lost. And bring no more than 1 toy per child – adventure time is perfect for discovering nature and different towns and finding fun in them without toys that can be played with at home any time.
  • Dress Simply. I believe in dressing nicely. I don’t like wearing sweatpants out of the house or overly graphic shirts or whatever. But I also believe in dressing comfortably. Trust me, a balance can be met, even with children. I like shopping at Primary.com for simple, versatile clothing for my children. (I myself prefer Pact and Levi’s.) No fussy straps or broken zippers or shoes that pinch. Just simple clothes that let you live your life comfortably while also looking nice.
  • Prepare to Be Patient. Sometimes things do go wrong and break-downs happen. If you are prepared to go with the flow and to explain any unexpected changes of plans to children, they will catch your vibe and be more likely to go with the flow. Patience is key. As long as children receive the attention that means their fears or disappointments are being listened to and respected, they will be more capable of moving on. Not everyone can control every situation and it will do your children good to learn that truth early.
  • Don’t Listen to Me. You know your family better than anybody, especially me. If any of the above just sounds like it would be bringing hell along in a basket, just ditch it. Try some new things if you’ve got the curiosity and the courage, but if things are going well, just do you.

If you’d like to share any tips of your own, leave a comment.

Bon voyage!

Letting Go – Maternity Clothes

I don’t plan on getting pregnant again. I was so uncomfortable at times during this last pregnancy that I just couldn’t wait until I wasn’t pregnant anymore and could get rid of those big yet tight, stretchy yet restricting clothes. (It wasn’t, probably, the clothes themselves that were so uncomfortable, but just, you know, my body.)

Now that that time has come, I am feeling hesitant. And I wonder: Why is it so hard to let go sometimes?

Am I hesitant to admit that that time is my life is over, even though it’s a decision I made myself (with Andrew, of course)? Am I afraid that making that decision might be a mistake? I could always buy more maternity clothes, if I ever needed any again. But that’s spending more money when I already had perfectly good maternity clothes. But honestly, I don’t plan on needing any again.

Do I think that getting rid of those clothes will also get rid of the memories? Sure, I wouldn’t have the physical article to jump start pregnancy memories whenever I came across them, but I will still have those memories. Heck, I already got rid of some maternity clothes (out of season or just super worn) and haven’t had any internal struggles.

Maybe it’s because I packed up these clothes so soon after giving birth. I mean, I just brought my baby home yesterday! Do I need a period of separation before letting go? But it’s not like I’m going to wear them – they are too big or uncomfortable or out of season – why would I need to keep them around? To say goodbye? Maybe, actually, according to Marie Kondo. Goodbye and thank you. But I could actually do that quite quickly; like, on my way to the donation bin.

The more I write about it, actually, the more my reasoning is taking over. I may feel an odd emotional attachment to those clothes, but any actual emotional attachment I have is to my actual children.

I will get rid of them. Today. I will put them in a donation bin and hope they find their way to a pregnant woman in need of some maternity clothes that were just my size.

And I will move on. I will cultivate my wardrobe to my current lifestyle. That is, not pregnant, but caring for 3 wild and crazy boys, ages 0 to 3. And I will continue to slowly curate it to fit my lifestyle as it grows with motherhood, my job, my taste, and my fancy.

Goodbye, maternity clothes. And thank you for seeing me through 3 pregnancies, full of ups and downs, that ultimately led to my 3 children, the beautiful family I have created with my wonderful husband.

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

Making Every Day a Good Day with My 5 “Daily Do’s”

I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.

I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.

There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.

There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.

But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:

  1. outside
  2. move
  3. write
  4. gratitude
  5. zen

Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.

Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.

Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.

Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.

Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.

I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.

It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.

O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.

Buying vs. Borrowing Books

I love to read. I love books. And I love to read books. To me, those are all different statements. And the fact that they are all true for me create a bit of a paradox for my minimalist lifestyle.

I know minimalism is a completely individual experience — finding what sparks joy for me, figuring out what is essential for me to be both calm and productive, figuring out what I enjoy most — but sometimes that can be kind of a long and arduous process. I do still think it’s worth it. Even if I have to a lot of internal debate first.

A topic that has plagued me for years is whether I should buy or borrow books. Although, realistically, it’s pretty obvious to me now that it’s going to be some mix of the two. I just had to figure out how, exactly, to mix it up.

I love to read. I enjoy perusing magazines, learning from non-fiction text, and experiencing a really great story. It is my favorite hobby and form of entertainment. Now, if I only go by my love of reading, borrowing books makes perfect sense. I get all the knowledge and story without spending any money or accumulating any clutter. I absorb the information and then return the medium. But…

I love books. I think books are beautiful. I think they smell wonderful. I think they are lovely and I love having them around. I like to re-read books. I like that I form a type of relationship with the physical book as I form relationships with the characters. I like the memories that get soaked up in the pages as I read — like where I was, how I was feeling, what the weather was like, and how I changed. I also like to support authors for creating art that moves me. So it makes sense for me to buy books, too, because I appreciate more than just the stories — it’s the experience the book brings about as a whole as well as the world the author creates. But books can be expensive when you read a lot. And they can be big and heavy and take up lots of space. What about an eReader then? Well…

I love to read books. I have an eReader that I use occasionally and I do like it. It stores a lot of books, there are a wide range of books to download, it’s easy to use, and it’s very small and light. I can even borrow ebooks from my library. But it’s also missing that je ne sais quoi. It doesn’t provide a look, feel, and weight unique to each book. It may have a slight smell, but it’s electronic-y and not book-y. It just seems a bit… impersonal. It’s like having a very knowledgable robot that can tell me things all day long instead of me meeting actual people and learning about them from them. And as with all technology, it will become obsolete — the hardware will get old and the software won’t be supported anymore. Plus, I have to make sure the battery is charged. (I usually realize it needs charging when the screen blanks out in the middle of my reading.) So although an eReader seems like it would be the perfect minimal solution for an avid book reader, it’s just not for me.

My solution? Compromise. Maybe this is a no-brainer for some people, but I just wanted an easy go-to answer. Like, I only borrow books to save money (and space) or I only buy books to support authors and keep my reading slow or I love my eReader! It’s perfect for everything! but it’s more complicated than that. Although, when I stop really thinking about it, I know in my heart what to do in each situation. I would just over-think it and muss it all up. But if I go with my gut…

  • I know when I truly want to buy a book — to support the author, to have the beautiful artifact on my shelf, to be able to revisit the story whenever I want, to be able to share it with my friends and family.
  • I know when I’d be fine borrowing a book — if it’s an author or story I’m not sure of, whether I’m reading it just because of a book club or recommendation, if I only foresee myself reading it once, or if it’s not available as an ebook.
  • I know when to get it (borrow it) on my eReader — if it’s an author or story I’m not sure of, if the physical book is overly huge or hugely expensive, if it’s a recommendation, if I’ll only read it once, or if it’s only available as an ebook.

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean needing to set up strict rules to govern ourselves and what we consume if that’s not what will actually work with our lives. The purpose of minimalism is to remind us to be mindful of how and why and what we consume. Life is diverse and imperfect and malleable, just like us. And I think that is beautiful and interesting, just like all of our stories.

Practicing minimalism does encourage me to step back and analyze myself when needed, but I appreciate how I can still be flexible enough to just go with my gut sometimes, too.

Making Religious Holidays My Own

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I went camping. Being Easter, it was a holiday for only some. I grew up celebrating Easter. Andrew grew up celebrating Easter. But neither of us would call ourselves religious now and don’t believe in Jesus as the one and only messiah. So why continue to celebrate it? Partly because our families still do, but we’ve come to see it a little differently.

For Easter, Andrew and I have decided to celebrate the arrival of spring, specifically with the first camping trip of the year. We share meals and traditional foods (pufek [spelling??? which is a German bread], liverwurst, and strammer max for me) with family. We don’t dress up or go to church. We spend time together outside, enjoying the freshness of spring, and send the children out on a little egg hunt just because it’s a fun game to play outside. And of course we eat chocolate. Easter, for us, is not about Jesus, but about family and nature and getting out to enjoy the warmer weather.

It’s similar with Christmas. I don’t celebrate the coming of our lord and savior or whatever. But I do like a lot about the holiday, such as the sharing, coziness, warmth, and love. So when I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate the coming of cuddly winter with the closeness and coziness of my family and friends. Since it’s also so close to the end of the year, I reflect back on that year and celebrate it for what it was. Then I celebrate the coming of the New Year with new beginnings.

It didn’t take a lot to get here — just a little shift in thinking. It helps that Andrew and I are on the same page with these religious holidays, too. Celebrating in this way, I am able to comfortably share traditions with my family and friends without feeling like I’m sacrificing my own beliefs or pretending to follow others. I’ve come to enjoy these times again instead of constantly questioning the history and purpose, as I did a few years ago. I am now at a good place with them and feel content.

Perhaps a shift in thinking is all it would take for you to have a more enjoyable holiday?