What I learned about consumerism from a retro banana phone

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Yes, friends…this is indeed a taxi yellow retro headset for my cell phone. You know…a basic need for most smart phone users.

At times in my life I have fallen trap to the belief that part of living an ExtraOrdinary life is owning ExtraOrdinary things. I have never been a label-looking-Jones-keeper-upper, but I do like owning something that’s unusual, original and fun. As in, “What is that? And where did you get it?” Enter said retro banana phone. It seemed like a good idea at the time as my finger hovered above the Go To Cart button. The truth is it’s a pain in the tuckus because it takes up valuable real estate in my already heavy purse. Also, the sound is not particularly clear when talking to someone. Novelty aside, it was a silly purchase. Now, as I troll my home for equally superfluous Goodwill-bound faire, I am painfully aware of the waste.

I am also noticing how past beliefs about stuff have clouded an attempt at a simpler existence.

I can’t help but wonder why this realization didn’t bonk me on the head earlier. It seems strange that in midlife I’m just beginning to see the literal and figurative cost of spending hard earned moo-la on such items. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to recognize the same pattern in my teen girls. There’s my oldest’s strip mall monologue of why the ridiculous Chihuahua-faced hoodie would be a good edition to a 13-year-old’s closet….there’s my youngest’s 56th pair of novelty socks (bacon patterned!)…there’s the set of IKEA baskets which will be a magnet for more small doo-dad collections that fall prey to my hungry vacuum. It’s funny, because I don’t see a whole lot of difference between their materialistic fluff and mine. It’s time to set an example, but honestly, I’m just starting to get serious about this on my own. Here’s hoping I can teach the lessons to my offspring as I learn them myself.

My 5 step plan to quell the purchase of THINGS I DON’T NEED:

1.     Go cold turkey with a no spending policyIt’s good to shock the system into obedience, right? Worked with sugar. Why not shopping? I’m going for it in my Project Enough this month.

2.     Install a waiting period before making unnecessary purchases. I know Leo says 30 days…but I’m thinking more like two weeks. My self-monitoring has proven that 14 days is quite enough to completely dismiss an idea and move on. Squirrel!

3.     Avoid stores and cyberspace hot spots that provoke materialistic yearnings. I know that Anthropologie (home of interesting and ExtraOrdinary design) is a consumer trap for me. I also know that a mall trip is flat out inviting my daughters’ gimmees to take center stage. I don’t spend money in either of these places when I am not there. Funny how that happens.

4.     Build a nest egg for travel. One of the core values in our family revolves around travel and adventure. Every time I forgo an unnecessary purchase, my bank account wins one for experience instead of materialism.

5.     Practice gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So cliché’ these days, but oh-so-true. A daily dose of it works to combat the need for stuff. I’m finding myself more and more grateful for the blessings that have been heaped on this family the more and more I record them and share them.

I guess you could call me a recovering consumer. 

I think most of my gimmees fall in the category of home design (need to toss the West Elm catalog before cracking it open) and supplies for a very creative life (my art closet used to be obscene). The song I’m beginning to see the light is the background music to the minimalist stirrings of my heart. Of course, once I started down this path, I stumbled upon a whole host of simplicity blogs and people on the same quest for less and meaning. I take that back—I don’t think there was any stumbling involved there. I think this is a case of (as I’ve said before) when the student is ready to learn the lesson, the teachers show up. There are days I get down on the process because I feel that we’ll never get there. And then there are times I feel that moving into a 600 square foot home is totally doable after my kids leave for college (in just five short years). In this state I feel the power surge to be the person who can let go of stuff, embrace experiences and travel the world with the man I love. How does one get to this point? I’m not sure….

…..but I’m willing to walk to the edge.

Releasing my grip on material things, I’m finally ready to fully invest in what’s important (and it ain’t a banana phone, I can tell you that).

Is there a particular material thing that you find hard to let go of? If so, how did you manage to stop the madness?

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Small house, Big Style ~ Part One

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via. Minimallisimo

Part One: Dreaming about it.

I’m obsessed with small dwellings that exhibit extremely good design. I’m not talking good design in terms of efficiency & good use of space. That’s a given.  I’m talking beautiful lines, lotsa light, simple & sleek finishes, minimalist furniture and a few eclectic pieces original to the designer. No plywood here…just tons of thought put into a space unique to its owner.

I have my favorites.

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via Sunset.

I have my Pinterest image arsenal that fuels my desire for small and lovely.

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Via. Urlaubsarchitektur

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via. Olson Kundig

I have my small dwelling dreams in place.

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I believe I could live in a 800 square foot space if it had high ceiling and tall windows.

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via Jose Campos

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via. HighestHeels

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Via ArchDaily

It’s always been about the light for me. Being a Northwest girl, I crave sunshine most of the year, but will settle for gray window light. I like viewing the world outside as a part of the inside world. That connection is happiness to me. I used to think I needed the space to twirl (you know…flailing about to Earth, Wind & Fire while dusting), but now I think I could live in a small space if it was designed with light in mind.

I also love landscaping that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep.

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via Boutique homes.

Currently, the hub spends countless hours mowing acreage at the Blair Abode and I’ve groused more than once about it eating up the few sunny days we have for fun & frolic. Not to mention the fact that he is looks like a sci-fi character with his huge goggles, bunny suit and face mask (he’s an allergy nightmare). It’s that whole own your space, don’t let it own you deal. My dream of a high desert lot in Bend, Oregon lives on (above). Pretty, but easy.

It’s true that we fill the space we live in.

Smaller space, fewer spots for Crap We Don’t Need. The small space in our Airstream, The Twinkie, is so fun to navigate when we travel. I really love having everything within arm’s reach.  I even like how the small closet forces me to choose a few favorite clothing items for a trip. ‘Simple living at its best.  It has me daydreaming about cross country road trips in retirement. Being a teacher, I realize that for now these trips will be summer excursions…practice runs for when we’re gone months at a time. It has me wondering why we didn’t do this as a family before the kids went to high school. I know the rational answers, of course, but there were days when it could’ve happened and practicality won out.

That’s a whole other post for another day….Part Two comin’ at ya soon.

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P.S. Dan Hayes, from Simple Life Together, recommended a great Youtube vlogger for some small dwelling entertainment. Good stuff!

On my Simplicity Mission Radar

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Beyond excited to be the first guest post over at SimpleLifeTogether! Love those Hayes folks…just good people with a very important message. I am incredibly honored to be on their blog this week. It gave me a chance to hammer out how this whole thing ignited for me. I even learned a few things by getting it all down.

Thanks, Dan and Vanessa!

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Good Reads…

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I love it when passionate, smart people share their journey with the rest of us…and I think it’s cool that all three authors are in different stages of life.

1) Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (two hip, single men on the road trip of life) tell the story of an incredible journey towards minimalism.

2) Courtney Carver, veteran minimalist and an incredibly pure voice on the internet for many of us, compiled some terrific articles that are great to read one at a time (for maximum chewing 🙂 )

3) Allison Vesterfelt, newly married and settling down, chronicles her “letting it all go and heading out” tale of adventure.

Inspiring, indeed.

~  Last week I did a separate post on Clutter free with Kids, Joshua Becker’s newest book. I’ve read it twice. What can I say? I’m on a mission! ~

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I’m a documentary junkie.

I could watch one every day. I find it helpful to be informed on all kinds of random topics.

These were my favorites recently:

1) Hungry For Change – terrific and inspiring when you’re on the path to good health (I’m doing theWhole30 at the moment and this keeps me keepin’ on when I’d kill for a bagel)

2) Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (okay..so I’ve watched this 2 times) – I’m a juicing believer and benefactor…I haven’t been sick in 6 months, and I’m a 3rd grade teacher, for cryin’ out loud! Can you say petri dish?

3) Sprawling From Grace – What the heck is happening to America? Sad, but also hopeful little tale of woe.

4) Happy – Funny how this movie really emphasizes relationships and giving to create happiness  (in fact, owning a lot of stuff proved the opposite)

5) Tiny – I can’t find this on Amazon, but I can’t wait to see it. I’m a bit of a tiny house stalker, even though you could place one in my living room.

6) Wal-mart, The High Cost of Low Price – Okay, so this one just made me MAD. I can’t even drive by that store without having a reaction. My kids watched it with me and they said, “Mom, how can people shop there, knowing all of the bad business they practice?” I had no answer…except to tell the world to watch more documentaries.

7) Kids + Money – Another one the kidlets agreed was a source of good info. We’re really working to teach them smart money practices and this one put it into kid language.

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New blog find…

I’m a bit of a Hawaii fanatic.

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As in, I never miss Hawaii Life on HGTV  (“Don’t bother me, kids…mom’s daydreaming”) and I have a drawer of sand and shells under my desk to put my feet in when it is a rainy, sloppy mess here in the Pacific Northwest.

Exhibit A:

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Yes, I’m aware that this is weird and pathetic…

YET, it’s all part of my plan to will my life there in retirement with my Hawaii-loving spouse. Seriously, I will settle for a shack on the center divider of the King Kamehameah Highway.

I digress.

MauiShopGirl is my new spot to visit and it’s almost as good as putting my feet in the little sand shoebox! Hooray for me, strange teacher-tropics-obsessive-lady!

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Tania Ginoza’s interview on the Hayes’ podcast was terrific–‘loved it.

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Okay, friends.That’s it for this week. My head is swirling with all kinds of things I’m learning and experimenting with. So excited to have a spot to put it all! I’ m working on a good/but simple design post for a simplified home. I’m a recovering interior design magazine addict, but it did help me learn the basics to put it all together, minus the multitudes of STUFF.

I really appreciate you being here. Have a fabulous week!

Thank you!

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ProjectEnough

Enough  \i-ˈnəf, ē-, ə-\ :   equal to what is needed

This word has lost meaning for me along the way.

I’ve been trying to reacquaint myself with the concept and have identified several opportunities to embrace it. As an American accustomed to a certain lifestyle, I’ve become lazy about challenging myself to stay within the confines of enough. I realize that enough means many things to different people, but I do know what it should look like for my family and me…and I hafta admit…

This

ain’t

it.

Although I’m thoroughly fascinated by the Joy of One concept…and I love the idea of Project 333.…and I covet the Tiny House People’s simplified existence…I’m still tuning in to what enough looks like in my home and in my own head.

I’ve identified the areas where I’ve wandered off the enough path.

I’m aware that it’s best to focus on one goal at a time (for maximum success), so the plan is to be aware and purposeful in one area for a month at a time.

February ~ Enough is Enough….Commitment to maximum health with TheWhole30

March ~ Enough Stuff….A moratorium on buying anything new

April ~ ‘Enough Said….Listening more/Talking less

May ~ Enough Already….A mass media hiatus

June ~ I am enough/You are enough….Only allowing positive things to be said about myself and others

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My February focus, Enough is enough, is already underway (started this in late Jan.) and that’s another whole post in itself.  Hoo-boy! It is really clearing my head (and my tummy issues–bonus!) and I think I might be walking into a way of eating that will stick with me for the long haul. The positives are too plentiful to ignore the fact that TheWhole30 is one amazing thing to do for your body and future longevity. I finish the month of protein/vege/fruit/fats intake (with no other carbs) on March 10th and will do a re-cap of how I redirected my meals…it’s not easy, to be sure…but really, really worth it.

March brings a hold on my Amazon.com problem. By problem, I mean my weekly visits to get “just one more book”…be it for my job as a teacher or for my own development (nonfiction are my favorite), I can spot something worth throwing in the ‘ole cart every visit. Yes, I always buy used, but friends…like anything else, these items add to a whole lotta crazy wallet drainage…not to mention the space these books take up in my home has become an issue. Avoiding the mall and other places of temptation will not be hard and I’ve pitched any kind of catalog temptation, so we’re good there, but the cyber-shopping? Good grief, I need some awareness! I think just using the computer for blogging and work will be in order.

April is when I will hyper-focus on what people have to say…and when I do speak, I’m hoping it will consist of mostly questions about what the other person has shared. I notice that with my 3rd graders, they are usually thinking about what they want to say when someone else is talking. This is normal when you’re eight…not so much at 43. Being present and really hearing another’s words is important and I’d like to be better at it.

May will bring some solitude, I believe. Although I’m not a big TV watcher (2-3 recorded HGTV segments are my “shows”), the commercials I’m fast forwarding through are still seeping in. I’m also witness to the materialism when it’s blaring in the background with someone else plopped in front of it. We’ve done a pretty good job of limiting mindless screen domination…funny thing, my kids’ favorite is The Brady Bunch series on Netflix. ‘Watched it twice! We’re deliberate about what we DVR and make a date to watch it…but those damn commercials…the more is better message is definitely affecting me and the little people in our house. I’m over it. In fact, I’d love to see this month’s project turn into a step toward getting rid of it all together. It’s not just TV, of course, when dealing with the effects of advertising. I’m banishing magazines and ad-heavy internet content as well. Pinterest is a black hole I seem to fall into when it comes to seeing how others live (particularly with home design). I think the first step of enough and being content, is not having the superfluous, excessive more, more, more that creeps in through the media.

June is a month to really think before I speak. There is so much negativity floating in our country’s air. I’m always surprised at the outright meanie pants folks on the web who use the guise of anonymous to crucify someone with their words. I’m shocked by how brutal the media is with dissecting the lives of people trying to find their way. I’m not a person who feels compelled to give my opinion on others’ decisions and lifestyles…in fact, I was brought up to love and accept, which for the most part, I feel I do pretty well. But, there is always that less-than-loving thing that can escape from my lips…sometimes it’s about the woman yelling at her child in line at the grocery store…sometimes it’s the guy who’s signaling to me in sign language as he cuts me off…and sometimes it’s just quiet judgment as I watch people at a safe distance. I realize it’s all the same…it’s ugly and dark…not a place I’d like to dwell. I will reel in positivity in the beginning of summer! It’s a good time for it.

Do you ever create little projects for yourself to improve your life? I’m interested.

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Five things to do to help your kids declutter

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Before I wax poetic about closet clutter and the kidlet dilemma, I’d like to point out the resource that supplied my simplifying race car fuel this week. Joshua Becker, a dad and husband and rational minimalism extraordinaire, tells us how to unclutter with our offspring. In a very succinct way, Becker gives advice about each area in the kid declutter journey, but her also reminds us why this process (and all of the other jewels that come with minimalizing our lives) is important. Good stuff, friends.

Helping my kids LET GO.

After reading Joshua’s book I took a good long look at the Scary Abyss, otherwise knows as my teen girls’ closets. I have epic avoidance strategies when it comes to anything closet-related, so overcoming my fear was the first step. Considering I’m as welcome in their rooms as a toddler in a glassware store (they know my intentions after all), it has been challenging to get my hot little hands on the excess. The clothes and shoes remind me of a layer of newspaper in our old guinea pig’s cage…what color is the carpet again? And why is every school paper received this year being horded in a ball the size of Texas? It was clear that both of my lovelies were growing wary of wading through ill-fitting jeans, worn discarded shoes, and sentimental stuffed animals to get dressed in the morning. I do believe the attachment to younger-year-items has waned enough to start the process of letting go, but they weren’t thrilled about trading in a Saturday afternoon for it…until….I did five things:

1) Put on some tunes. Their tunes, specifically. Once we got bopping to some Top 40 and I told them that we could get this thing done in 15 t0 20 songs, it didn’t seem so bad. The energy in the room changed.

2) Let them be in charge. I backed off and sat on their beds, allowing them to pick up each item and hold it up like Simba in the African savannah and we made a group decision about whether it was allowed to take up closet real estate. I allowed the other daughter (the one not in the hot seat) to make creative signs for our carpet piles (“No…Crap I shouldn’t have bought is not acceptable…change, please”) and allowed items to switch from one to the other without protest.

3) Let them pick the charity to receive their clothing. They’ve been watching me deconstruct the house and noted who has inherited our wares. I think it’s more meaningful when they physically walk the bags-‘o-stuff into charitable organizations….especially the toys that have been cleaned, ready for new sets of little hands in shelters and daycare centers.

4) Ask them to try on items in question. Somehow the act of sliding their long legs into high-water pants gets the message home that they are indeed bigger now. Holding on to clothes that don’t fit clouds the good stuff and propels the “I have nothing to wear” state of mind.

5) Know when to quit. Once we finished the closet, I was ready to attack my youngest’s yard sale of a desk. I had a gleam in my eye that must’ve frightened her, because she yawned (twice) and said she was “done for now”. I didn’t push it. If this process was ever going to happen again, I needed to acknowledge the backing off boundary.

The good news is both of my darlings said they felt good about their “new” closets. I believe the word light was uttered in there somewhere, which made my simplifying yearning heart pound like a jackrabbit.

We learned some important lessons in the process as well:

The Mall Crawl (shopping trips that involve meandering without purpose) frequently results in impulse purchases that are destined for the give-away pile after few wearings (i.e., poor use of family funds).

-The 80/20 rule still stands in teen closets…they really do only don 20% of their favorite old standbys.

-Having all items hanging in categories makes it much easier to get dressed.

So….the desks and shelves are next, but I will revel in the glow of their clutter-free closets until it’s time to go at it again…ipod and trash bags in hand.

What are your strategies for clearing out with your kids? I’d love to hear!

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