The rhythm of daily life routinely shifts from slow and easy to fast and furious. No matter how hard we try to rein in the crazy and slow our lives down, the crazy creeps back in when we aren’t looking. As a result, life as a minimalist – always in search of simplicity — is a never-ending journey. We are always on the path, never reaching the destination. This sort of journey suits me fine.
This same phenomenon occurs with money. We can be extra careful and thoughtful about our spending and then, BOOM! Here comes the crazy. Some unexpected large expense or a series of little, but poor spending decisions, all of which can cause us to steer ourselves straight off the financial wellness path.
“How meaningful is this purchase?”
For this reason, I’ve started thinking about spending in a new way, and my thought process is increasingly becoming a habit. The concept isn’t difficult. But it can be challenging to remember to ask myself, “How meaningful is this purchase?” Of course, I don’t do this for every bill that comes into the house. I’m referring to daily spending. Spending on convenience. Spending to reduce emotional pain or stress. Spending to keep up with the persona we have developed.
It’s easy to be judgmental about quite a bit of our spending. Who hasn’t succumbed to the fast food siren song when the workday has run just a bit too long, and the thought of going home to cook a nutritious meal makes you want to cry. Who hasn’t bought a sugary treat or other impulse purchase because our day was challenging and some inner voice whispers that “we deserve a treat.”
If we objectively evaluate this sort of spending, it would result in many budget cuts. On the surface, those adjustments might seem wise and right. But depending on the situation, it might be wrong to cut those “unnecessary” expenses. This is where it’s paramount that we focus on meaning.
Bad habit? Or important ritual?
Let me offer a personal example of this sort of behavior. My husband and I homeschool our daughter, Rowan, and I run a business. Once a week, she comes with me to the office to do a little bit of work and work on school assignments while I work in the office. Almost without exception, we leave the house early and hit Starbucks for breakfast.
By anyone’s measure, this is not the best choice as a parent. My daughter is not getting a very nutritious breakfast (nor am I!). What we get is enormously overpriced. Nonetheless, it has developed into a habit. On the surface, this seems like a habit that needs intervention. Clearly, I’m capable of having something fun, nutritious and interesting to eat at home on those mornings when we “working girls” are heading to the office. A practice like that would save oodles of money and probably save time, too.
But even as I am feeling all the parental guilt about this bad habit, I don’t berate myself. Instead, I smile. Because this ritual is an echo of one I had with my father when I was a kid. On Saturday mornings, he got up early to go to his office to get some extra work done. He would wake me up and ask if I wanted to go along. The answer was always an enthusiastic “yes!” because it meant stopping for breakfast at my dad’s favorite diner. I was, and still am, a huge fan of big breakfasts. This time with my dad became a happy ritual, and I’d also get the satisfaction of helping him out with some work when I accompanied him to his office.
So, now Rowan and I have developed a similar joyful ritual. In spite of the fact that I spend $14 each Thursday when we stop for breakfast, it is worth it because the experience MEANS something to us. It’s our thing. It began accidentally but, after a handful of times, our pitstop has become a habit. When she’s slow to get out of bed those mornings, a whispered reminder of “Starbucks for breakfast!” is all it takes to motivate that girl.
This ritual might fall into the category of the worst sort of spending. It’s convenient, but it’s not particularly healthy, and $14 per week does add up. Truth is, this splurge means something to my daughter and me, and therefore it has a sanctioned place in our budget.
Evaluate your spending in the context of meaning.
Using the lens of meaning is a way to filter your discretionary spending. What does this purchase mean to you? Does it have any meaning? When you are about to buy an unhealthy snack, or another pair of jeans you don’t need, ask yourself “why am I doing this?” What does that purchase mean to you? If the purchase will lift up your soul with happiness or nourish your body with goodness, you will have a positive feeling when you ask yourself the question. Instead, if the purchase is simply out of habit or is something you’re trying to quit buying, notice that, too.
So, pause. Evaluate what you are about to spend your hard-earned money. Practice taking a deep breath while you ponder the meaning of the purchase.
As we work to simplify our lives and cut out the unessential, we shouldn’t overlook how we spend our money. Just as our lives can easily slip back into an undesired hectic rhythm, so, too, can our spending slip back into meaninglessness. Choose to be thoughtful and adopt spending habits that are meaningful to you.
My youngest daughter is about to turn seven months old, and she is pretty cute. Her smile, which is never more than a couple of seconds away, lights up any room and most family members and friends have dubbed her “the happiest baby they’ve ever met.”
In other words, she’s perfect, and I count the minutes until the end of the day when I can be with her and her sister once again.
Recently I found my fatherly adoration and attraction to be near her extended to the threshold of her bedroom door and no further.
To cross over into her lavender room brought up deep anxieties that I have kept at bay for a couple of years now thanks to the minimalist lifestyle we try our best to adhere to in our young family.
The reason? The unbelievable number of hand me downs, family heirlooms, gifts and cheap fast fashion clothing that had accumulated beyond belief in this tiny’s person’s dresser and closet.
Each time I would open her drawers and clothes and shoes would burst out, I’d be reminded of that famous, albeit perhaps untrue folklore of Ernest Hemingway’s shortest novel ever written.
The story goes, Hemingway made a bet that he could write a novel in only six words and what he came up with are three very loaded with subtext sentences: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”
In a nutshell, the story alludes to a family purchasing a pair of shoes for an expectant baby with much anticipation and joy only to lose the child in some way and the shoes never being worn thus a personal tragedy.
A tragic story for the 1920s when a child would only have one pair of shoes, and they would have such significance that maybe those shoes would even be bronzed at some point.
Fast forward to 2018 and my seven-month-old has 18 pairs of shoes. Eighteen pairs of shoes.
And just so we’re clear, she’s amazing but not so amazing that she can already walk and thus would wear through a pair of shoes.
It’s mind-boggling to consider that such a tiny baby would need so many pairs of shoes but it’s also fairly easy to do the math on how we got here:
– Two baby showers thrown by fashion-forward friends for our first daughter created a surplus she was born into.
– Two additional baby showers by those same fashion-forward friends for our second doubled that number.
– Four bins of hand me downs from another friend with shoes and clothes still with the tags on them.
– Trips to Carter’s, Target and Old Navy where we picked up a few pairs of our own for no more than $5 each.
And, as you can guess, there are more outfits than our tiny Imelda Marcos could ever match with all of her fancy footwear.
Fortunately/unfortunately, our baby having days are over so we can’t correct this course of waste that will undoubtedly end up in a landfill for ourselves, but we have found ways to help our friends who are conscious of the impact our children’s clothes have on our world and have recommended these steps to many:
Rule of three
In our house, our kids have three pairs of shoes. One pair of comfy play shoes, one pair of crocs for the hot NC summer and one pair of what our eldest daughter refers to as her “sparkles” which are dress shoes for church and other nice occasions.
Stick to reality
Babies cannot walk and thus do not need shoes. Socks are fine. If you want to get a pair of booties or mocs, that’s OK, but you only need one pair.
We emphasize clothes that are going to have extended shelf wear. There is nothing better than going through my eldest daughter’s clothes that she has outgrown and found that while she has worn them a lot, there is still a lot of life left in them for her sister’s use. Brands like Primary, Hannah Anderson, Everlane and, our personal favorite, Mollusk Surf Shop make outstanding kids clothes.
Say ‘No, Thank You’
Friends and relatives love you and your baby. They want to throw you showers and spoil the heck out of your little one. That’s OK and so welcome, but, at the same time, it isn’t rude to direct their giving to things you need like diapers, wipes, bibs (SO MANY BIBS!) or to go in together and buy you one of the many expensive car seats you’ll need.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather your gift be returned and the family receives credit for something they need OR would you instead wish it be shoved into a drawer until their kid outgrows it, they take it to Goodwill, or it ends up in a landfill? I think most would go with the former so you shouldn’t feel bad using that gift receipt.
Institute a port of entry for hand me downs
The vicious giant Tupperware bin of kids clothes cycle is like a chain letter you receive. People can’t wait to foist all of those space takers onto you and out of their attics once and for all. Be on the same page with your spouse and talk it over before you let something so huge into your house with both of you agreeing to take it or not. Yes, it can be a real cost-saver to have all of those outfits but not at the expense of your sanity and well crafted minimalist space.
Each one of us bears scars from the wounds of our past. There isn’t a person alive who has not felt the sting of hurt, heartache, grief, and suffering. Each hard thing we go through leaves its mark, and the deeper the hurt, the longer it takes to heal. But, just as the ownership of too many physical possessions creates chaotic stress and clutter—long-term accumulation of rampant, undealt-with emotions can take over and become deeply detrimental to our well-being.
None of our minimizing journeys look quite the same, including what is inside the suitcases that hold our emotional baggage. It is one thing to peel back the layers of physical possessions in search of excess but digging into and disturbing long-buried emotions presents a different kind of challenge.
It is much easier to try to convince ourselves they don’t exist than to shine the light of truth into all those darkened corners, exposing them and coming face to face with how they are affecting us.
Our lives were meant for more than to be trudged through laden with the residue of yesterday’s overflow. This is a new day—the perfect time to courageously start confronting the “junk” weighing down those suitcases and assessing whether it earns the right to remain a part of our lives. The longer we wait, the more baggage we accumulate and the more cumbersome the load becomes. The only way to move forward is to leave the past where it happened, unpack, and let go of what’s inside. So, go ahead—unlock your suitcase, and lift the lid.
What do you see? Much of life’s emotional baggage stems from childhood events, so chances are it has been in there for so long and become such a part of you that you have forgotten it is even there. Here are three things you may come across in your soul-searching—
Are you unable to forgive someone who has wronged you? What they did to you may be incomprehensible. They may or may not have apologized or admitted to their own guilt and wrongdoing. It’s true that you are 100% justified in feeling the way you do because your feelings are real, and they deserve validation, but friend! Carrying this is making your suitcase heavy and hard to manage. Imagine how much lighter it would be if you decided to forgive, bury that hatchet once and for all, and lighten your load! A grudge is a prison cell, and forgiveness is the key. Remember, the one you can’t forgive is not the one who is swallowing the poison.
Any shame for past mistakes and failures in your suitcase? Let me ask you this—can you do one thing to undo what you have done in the past? Is there a rewind button that will take you back to the point just before it happened? Guilt is like holding a grudge against yourself. Grace has been extended to each of us. Why is it so hard for us to pass along that grace to ourselves? Forgive yourself, take the lessons with you, and endeavor to make better choices moving forward.
Even though fear is listed as one of the eight things Psychologist, Robert Plutchik identified as being a primary human emotion, and fear, in and of itself, is a necessary, natural reaction to protect and warn of danger, it can evolve into something extremely unnatural and unhealthy. Fear can become a cruel taskmaster that overtakes, paralyzes, and drains our joy of living.
As I have been “unpacking” my emotional baggage, I have been digging deep to unearth root reasons and origins for what I am finding. It has occurred to me just how much of my life has been controlled by a sense of unnatural, overwhelming fear, and, with the help of my wise and deeply-appreciated husband and son, I think I am finally understanding where the seed of such overpowering fear was planted. My dear mom was one of the most fearful people I have ever known. She lived most of her 84 years under the overhanging shadow of extreme fear.
Until recently, I never really gave much thought to why Mom was so afraid and why she automatically assumed the absolute worst in every situation, but as I follow the trail of fear, it is becoming clearer. Of Mom’s eight siblings, there were seven brothers, but just one sister. When Mom was 17 and her only sister, Opal, was 15, Opal died. That severely traumatic event in Mom’s young life set a precedent for the remainder of her days on earth. Fast forward to when Mom was 33 and her first husband was killed in a car accident, leaving her a widow with four underage children. A few years later, Mom married Dad, and a year after that, I was born. Life growing up was lived with an underlying sense of dread that the bottom would fall out at any moment and the worst possible outcome was more than likely.
Each time someone was sick, Mom assumed they were going to die. Every time someone was late, Mom feared they had been killed. When things were good, there was a sense that it couldn’t last, so we should prepare ourselves for the worst. As absurd as it sounds, this was real life in our home. Mom’s fears literally governed our lives and were probably at the root of why we moved 47 times (true story ~ Dad and I counted them one day.)
Fear is a huge component of my emotional baggage but forcing myself to get to the bottom of the reason for that has been enormously helpful in figuring out how to stop this cycle and identify what is real and what is mere imagination and psychological intimidation.
What else are you finding in your suitcase? It is time to let go of all that drags you down and open your heart and mind to what life could be like lived forward-looking instead of looking back.
Hey, maybe soon you will no longer need that suitcase—at all.
To combat this issue of excess waste, an Australian couple has set an example in front of the world by adopting the zero-waste lifestyle by living on a plant-based diet. The most astonishing part about the couple is that they have moved to a tiny house to live waste-free when they are expecting a baby girl pretty soon. According to treehugger.com, the couple – Mark and Joanna have built this tiny house with the intention to welcome their child into a world.
Starting from a self-built deck to the simple interior of the house – everything indicates the minimalist approach of the couple in building the house. However, the house has everything that an average human being may need, including a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, a lounge and even a nursery for the new-born baby. According to Livingbiginatinyhouse.com, it took Mark and Joanna 3 months and 50,000 AU$ (around 38,000 USD) to construct this home.
The house demonstrates perfectly that zero-waste living does not mean you have to live without life’s luxury. It only suggests that you need to be more responsible about your choices as a consumer. That will not only save you a considerable amount of money but also help reduce the amount of waste that affects the whole environment.
Leaving the regular routine and adjusting to the zero-waste lifestyle may not be an easy feat to achieve, but with a little dedication and some useful tips, you can also live a trash-free life like Mark and Joanna. Here’s how:
1. Quit the use of plastic packaging:
The disposable plastic containers generate around 13 million tons of non-degradable waste in the US. You can contribute from your end by ditching plastic packaging altogether. Instead of bringing the grocery in a plastic container, carry a mason jar to the grocery store to get the grocery items and the foods.
Also, find an alternative to the household essentials that come in bottled packages like the dish cleaner, hand wash, liquid soap and shampoo. There are enough brands which have started producing the essentials in eco-friendly containers.
2. Do not waste your food:
Food waste is another important issue to manage. There is a significant number of people in our society who do not get to eat a proper meal on a daily basis. If you have too much left-over in your freezer, you can distribute the food to the underprivileged people.
3. Reduce the use of disposable paper products:
The amount of waste generated from the disposable paper products is quite alarming. And since trees are being cut to produce all these paper products, reducing the use of disposable paper products has become a necessity for saving the environment from deteriorating.
Instead of using paper towels and paper napkins, use the cloth version of these products. Cloths can be washed and reused over a period. So it will reduce the amount of waste from your end, and also help you save some bucks over costly disposables.
4. Avoid plastic bags:
Plastic bags are easy to carry around and cost less than the bags made of jute, canvas or cloth. However, we know what plastic bags are doing to our environment. So instead of carrying all the shopped items in a plastic bag, bring an eco-friendly bag with you whenever you go shopping.
There are recyclable plastic bags as well, which you can use to reduce the generation of plastic bags. Also, try to buy things in bulk if it’s possible. Purchasing single servings means a higher number of containers, which lead to more amount of waste.
5. Bring your own lunch:
Bringing your own lunch to work in a reusable lunch box can help reduce the waste generation to a great extent. According to RecycleWorks.org, disposable lunches generate 100 pounds of waste per person each year.
The generated waste usually contains to-go packaging and conventional plastic containers etc. Besides, the extra amount of food often adds to the garbage. Usually, when you bring your lunch with you, you know how much food will be enough for you. Also, this will save you some money as well.
Instead of using papers for taking notes, making presentations and keeping files, use the digital format of those things to reduce the paper-generated waste. Use email to communicate with your colleagues, take notes on laptops and store files on cloud storage. This may help reduce the paper waste to a great extent.
7. Make use of compostable waste:
Every household generates a certain amount of compostable garbage every day. This waste includes parts of fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea-bags, unbleached paper, houseplants, excessive food items and much more.
These are all organic waste. If you don’t have enough space or an outdoor compost pile, you can use Vermicomposting, where red wiggler worm turns organic material into usable compost pretty quick. Also, the municipal composting program allows responsible citizens to deposit organic waste at a particular place which will later be processed into usable compost.
8. Organize your waste:
A simple technique can help you manage your everyday waste in a more productive way. Organize your everyday waste in three different categories. Keep the recyclable wastes in a separate bin, which you can use later or give it to someone who can make use of those wastes.
Keep the organic waste in a separate bin, so that you can later use that for composting. And finally, keep all the non-degradable, non-recyclable wastes like plastic bottles, plastic containers, etc. to a different bin and deposit it to the municipal garbage collecting van.
These tips in mind, it’s possible to make positive efforts to make this world a better place for not only the humankind but also for all the beings living on it.
It started innocently enough: browsing profiles on Petfinder, swooning over portraits of 4-legged playmates that dared me to say no. Nothing softens the heart so much as being met with an expression of wide-eyed wonderment and a wagging tail.
I’d wanted a puppy for a long time, but circumstances had always prevented it: my apartment wasn’t dog-friendly or I was worried about the accompanying expenses. I volunteered at the local animal shelter, took care of family and friends’ companions like they were my own, and patiently waited for my turn to come.
A few years, and several homes and jobs later, I found her: 5 pounds, perky ears, amber eyes, and a soft gaze that made all my troubles disappear.
The runt of the litter, she was described as sweet and affectionate, and well-versed in defending herself against siblings twice her size. Having viewed dozens of profiles in recent weeks, I knew my search was over. I’d always had a soft spot for the most vulnerable, seeing something of myself in their perseverance. Determined to bring her home, I applied right away, made a deposit, and held my breath until I was approved.
My sister, a fellow dog owner and long-time proponent of my expanding my fur family, surprised me with a welcome kit in the mail: a leash and collar, a bed, a sock monkey that squeaked, and a bag of food that far outweighed my soon-to-be companion. Each time I walked past the once-empty coat hook that now held her new accessories, I could barely contain my excitement.
I counted down the weeks to her homecoming and prepared my solo cat of 14 years as best I could. I pored over plushies, chew toys, and tennis balls, and researched the highest-rated. Like I do most new endeavors, I approached this one with unwavering commitment and great devotion.
Nothing could have prepared me for the joy I felt upon first meeting Lyla, nor the immeasurable light and laughter she’s brought to my life since. It’s hard to remember my days before her as she’s become such an integral part of them.
I wake up to her playful pounces and come home to her eager face perched upon the windowsill. I’ve learned more from her about what it means to be present, resilient, and appreciative than I could have imagined, and continue to grow from her gentle way of moving through the world. In a sense, she’s taught me what it means to be human.
We can learn so much from our pets simply by observing them and allowing ourselves to be open to what they have to show us. Here are a few takeaways my time with Lyla has afforded:
1. Find contentment with what you have.
Before Lyla came home, I filled her bed with toys, many of which she took months to grow into. They’ve since all been retired, victims of hours of chewing, and hundreds of squeaks, throws, and tug-of-war episodes. I now keep one or two toys for Lyla at a time and don’t rush out to replace them. She reminds me that the sense of fulfillment brought about by material goods is fleeting and that their value does not compare with that derived from our relationships and leisure time.
2. Dwell in the present.
Our pets don’t think in yesterdays or tomorrows, ruminating on the past, or fretting about the future. They are supreme models of what it means to live in the here and now. I love watching Lyla roll in the grass and chase fireflies, greet other dogs and new humans. Her curiosity drives her and her senses guide her. Witnessing her playful spirit is a reminder of the joy to be sought simply from tuning into each moment as it unfolds.
3. Practice patience.
When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to become discouraged or give up hope altogether. But being around Lyla reminds me that our troubles are only temporary and that we have the freedom to choose how we respond to them. Her good-naturedness is contagious and helps me recognize that our struggles need not define us.
4. Embrace the unknown.
Like most dogs, Lyla loves exploring different routes and chasing new scents. The unfamiliar intrigues her, and she’s not afraid to get a closer look. Though far from fearless, she shows an openness to explore that I admire. The unknown can be frightening, particularly when it threatens our sense of safety and security. But it can also be exciting and rewarding, if we allow ourselves to welcome it in, instead of running from it.
The minimizing of possessions acquired over a lifetime is a consuming, multi-tiered process with layers that must be peeled back and muddled through one at a time. If you are anything like my family and me, you may find it best to tackle the easiest layers first. Just the thoughts of turning loose of sentimental items would have turned me on my heel before I even began to minimize if we had made up our minds to start there first.
Belongings with memories attached present the greatest challenge to objectivity and sound judgment. Regardless of where you now find yourself on your minimizing journey, here are six questions that can help uncover the truth that will set you free.
1. WHY am I holding on to this?
As you pick up each individual item, search your soul and give yourself an honest answer. Are you trying to compete with someone else? Do you feel the need to flaunt what you own to impress others? Could it be that your refusal to let go of something you no longer need is hindering someone else from having their need supplied?
There are many reasons we feel compelled to hold onto something we no longer need, use, or enjoy—feelings of guilt for getting rid of a gift that someone sacrificed to give, sadness over releasing something that belonged to a deceased loved one, fear that getting rid of something will offend or hurt someone else’s feelings, our own pride, the desire for prestige, selfishness, greed, and a multitude of other reasons. Sometimes identifying your own motives and reasons for clinging to excess physical possessions will give you the courage to open your mind to the possibility of letting them go.
2. WHEN did I last use this?
If something is stuffed into a dresser drawer, buried in the back of a closet, hidden in a cupboard, high on a shelf, or otherwise out of sight, chances are it can be classified as excess. If you really need, use, or enjoy something it will usually be out where you can regularly see it and where it is readily available. Obviously, there are things that we cherish, such as collections, family heirlooms, children’s artwork, photographs, etc., that are out of sight but still bring ownership joy. Those things will be forever precious to us, and the place they have earned in our hearts guarantees a permanent place in our homes. But, inanimate items that are of no emotional significance and are stored away out of sight “just in case you might need them someday” probably need to go. It is easy to forget unseen, unnecessary possessions, and if you no longer need, use, or enjoy something, why keep it?
3. HOW does this enrich, improve, and add value to my life?
Imagine how much more peaceful life would be if we kept only the things that fill our cup and let go of everything that drains it. There are things that, just by their presence in our lives and home, resurrect bad memories, take us back to a painful time, or even bring anxiety. The anguish of parting with toxic possessions will only last for a short time. After you eliminate the negative from your life, you will feel a sense of freedom that will overwhelm any separation anxiety ahead of time.
4. WHERE does this rank on my list of priorities?
If the conditions to own, maintain, or keep something are requiring us to put our faith on the back burner and rarely see our family, there is obviously a conflict of interests, and our priorities are not in proper alignment. Time is precious, and tomorrow is uncertain. We’ve all lived long enough to know that children grow up, loved ones pass away, and windows of opportunity close with finality. When a physical possession becomes more important to us than the special people in our lives, the cost is more than we can afford to pay.
5. WHO is affected by my keeping this?
Having a cluttered, overstuffed home cultivates disorganization, stifles productivity and breeds discontent and irritability, not only in ourselves but in the loved ones who share our living space. Home should be a haven—a resting place—a comforting atmosphere where all who abide feel a sense of calm and freedom to unwind, relax and feel safe. Hoarding and clinging to what is not meaningful and beneficial at the expense of other household members’ well-being adds undue stress and is not conducive to the peace of a minimal lifestyle. It is a good idea to take a critical look around as if you are seeing your home for the first time, ask your loved ones how comfortable they feel in their surroundings, and take their thoughts and feedback into careful consideration without taking offense.
6. WHAT should I do with this?
Grab four different boxes and label them, “Keep”, “Trash”, “Donate”, and “Sell.” As you work through the Why, When, How, Where, and Who, decide, item by item and with deliberate intention, which box is appropriate. Keep filling the boxes as you minimize. Create a permanent place for everything you are going to keep and when the “Keep” box is full, empty it and put each item in its place. As soon as the “Donate” box is full, put it in your trunk. As the “Sell” box becomes full, decide how/where you will sell each item. Dispose of the “Trash” box, and you are good to go. You will be amazed at how this simple act of dividing every single item in your home into four categories gives you a sense of accomplishment. Minimizing is addictive —once you empty the boxes, you can’t wait to fill them again!
Remember this —the less you have, the less you have to worry about.
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but learning to manage it is something that will benefit you greatly.
Once you realize that you are the one in control of your life and the decisions you make, your stress will be easier to handle. As you evaluate the way you currently handle stress (it might be as simple as writing in a journal, going for a jog, or escaping in your favorite book), you will be able to determine if your ways of coping with stress are healthy and productive. If they are not these two things, it might be time to change your stress management techniques and try something new.
When dealing with stress you can either change your attitude or remove yourself from the stressful situation. Not everyone will handle stress the same way, and it is often times beneficial to have several different options for coping with each unique situation you might face.
Here are 5 stress management techniques for you to try next time you feel stressed out.
1. Get Rid Of Unnecessary Stress
Stress is something that is going to come for each of us at different times and in different forms. While it is impossible to completely avoid it, there are a few things you can do to eliminate the amount of stress you are dealing with.
Don’t be afraid to say no – Often times we feel like we have to always be available to help other people out. While it is important to be available for our loved ones, we have to remember to take care of ourselves, too. Saying no doesn’t mean you are a bad person, you just have to keep yourself from having too much on your plate at one time.
Surround yourself with positive people – Negativity is contagious and if you are around people who are bringing you down, then it is time to find some new friends to spend your time with.
Be in control – Remembering that you are the one in control of your life and your decisions will help your whole perspective on the situation.
Don’t overbook your life – Keep your schedule open for down time. When children are small, they need naps to recharge during the day. Adults also need designated time during the day to relax and do what they want to do. Keep your schedule open for this to be a possibility for you.
Change The Situation
Sometimes we are faced with situations where we cannot control the amount of stress that is being thrown at us. There are, however, ways for us to alter the situation to make it easier for us to bear.
Don’t bottle it up – Bottling up your emotions only leads to an explosion later on that could have been avoided if you had just spoken your mind and let your feelings be known. Voicing your opinion and emotions will allow other people in to help you conquer the stress you are dealing with.
Manage your time better – If you are running late on deadlines, you are going to be stressed out. Keep a planner and stay on top of your obligations and life will be much easier.
Be strong – If something is being done that you do not agree with or feel to be wrong, be assertive and strong and stand up for yourself.
If you cannot change the situation, consider trying to change your mindset and position on the matter at hand. Once you change your mindset, you will be better able to navigate through the stressful situations you find yourself in.
Stay positive – When you are feeling stressed out, think about all of the positive things happening in your life. This will make the stress seem small and your blessings seem much bigger.
Consider the bigger picture – Having a better perspective on the whole situation is important as you are dealing with various things. If you won’t remember this current situation a week or a year from now, then it is not worth your time to be overly stressed out.
Lower your expectations – We often have very high expectations for people in our lives, and when they can’t live up to them, we get disappointed and down. Don’t lower them too much, but also try not to hold people to expectations you can’t live up to yourself. Remember everyone is human and we all make mistakes from time to time.
Accept Your Life
When dealing with situations such as the death of a loved one or an unforeseen illness that strikes your household, there is no way to avoid the stress that comes along with it. Instead, the best way to move past it is to just accept the situation.
Move on – This might seem harsh, but it just simply means that you have to accept the lemons life is throwing at you and try your hardest to make lemonade. Accepting the “new” is not always easy, there will be hiccups along the way, but it is the only way to remain happy.
You can’t control the uncontrollable – Knowing there are things in life that we cannot avoid is imperative to living a stress-free life.
Have Fun and Love Your Life
A great way to handle stress is to increase your resistance to it. Making your life as happy and healthy as possible will leave little to no room for stress to creep in.
Sleep, sleep, sleep – When you are losing sleep, your whole life can be thrown out of its normal routine. Maintain a good sleep schedule so you can keep anxiety, stress, and sadness to a minimum.
Exercise daily – Getting your endorphins running and your body healthy will help you to feel more confident and more in control of your life.
Be with others – Surround yourself with those whom you love and can be yourself around. These people are your rock and will help you when life gets hard.
Minimalism isn’t just about letting go of excess physical possessions and the things we no longer use or enjoy. It is a whole-person release of everything that is not adding to but diminishing from our well-being. There are things that complicate our lives far more than the clutter we can see —things like the heavy burden of regret.
Regret is a powerful anchor that will hold us firmly in the past and prevent us from enjoying the present. It is an all-consuming stronghold that will interject its destructive presence into the happiest of moments, pulling a palpable cloud over a life that has otherwise managed to find a sense of peace.
If we have lived very long at all, there is a pretty good chance we have done at least a few things we wish we hadn’t. Some of the things we wish we could go back and undo are things that had only an internal effect on us —they didn’t really impact or hurt anyone else. Then there are the more complicated regrets that stem from seeds we have sown that planted pain and heartache in the life of others. Whatever the type of regret, walking its path is a hard row to hoe.
Eighteen years ago, I stood by the bedside of my dying father. Six years ago, I repeated the heart-wrenching scene in a different ICU room by my mother as her beautiful life slowly ebbed away. Both of my parents struggled much of their lives with a shadowing sense of regret over their own mistakes and failures. Watching both of them draw their final breath gave me a sense of clarity about the complete futility of walking through life burdened with regret. Here are five lessons I wish my dear parents had learned before their lives were over, and it was too late.
1. Accept the reality of the thing you regret.
The mistakes are real. They happened, and history cannot be rewritten. We can’t go back and pluck up seeds that have been sown, and what we sow will grow. Trying to recuse ourselves from responsibility will only put a band-aid on the wrongdoing and hide it from sight. Embracing reality and acknowledging the truth is the first step toward releasing regret.
2. Forgive yourself.
Show yourself the same kind of mercy you want others to extend when you have wronged them. Stop beating yourself up for doing something that you cannot undo. If you could go back to the moment before it happened, you would. Do the thing that you can do and open your heart to grace and the relief that comes from no longer carrying the burden of blame. Forgiving yourself won’t negate the thing you regret, but it will set you free from the power it holds over you.
3. Make amends.
If the thing you regret has wounded the heart of another, apologize without excuse and with sincerity of heart. Do what you reasonably can to mend fences and repair what your actions have broken, without crossing over into the trap of overcompensation. I say “reasonably” because there are those who will demand more of you than what is required, especially if their motives are stemming from hurt and feeling the need to make you “pay” for wrongdoing. This is where it can get tricky because regret can cloud what is reasonable. Your own inward sense of peace is a reliable guide to let you know when you have done enough.
4. Forget what is behind you.
Leave the past where it happened. Don’t keep talking about your failures and mistakes. The more you give voice to them, the larger they will appear. Release anything that reminds you of the regrettable action. I am deeply remorseful over a life decision my husband and I made that led our family into a church situation that adversely affected and wounded the spirit of our son. Is there anything harder to deal with than parenting regret? I have wished a thousand times that we had made a different choice, but what is done is done. Letting go of everything tangible that brings back memories of that season of life has been very helpful on our journey to healing. Reliving and being reminded of regrettable actions only perpetuates misery and gives license for the negative to stay alive in your life. Today is too precious to waste on “if onlys.”
5. Do the opposite of what you regret.
We can’t change the past, but what we do have control over is how we will live our lives going forward. Regret is a painful, albeit effective teacher. Learn from its lessons. Though we are all subject to the same human condition, and we will continue to make mistakes as long as we live, taking note of what regret has taught us can prevent the repeating of similar actions we will be sorry for in the future. Replace regretful contemplation with positive action. When wishing you had done things differently overwhelms your thinking, get proactive. Channel your thoughts into what is uplifting. Read something that inspires you. Do something nice for someone. Reach out with a benevolent hand. Be kind to everyone you meet. Smile. We are all in the ring with wishing we had done things differently in the past, but it is amazing how doing something positive, productive, and constructive will knock out the giant of regret.
At the end of our days, the only regret that will remain is that we ever allowed it to have a place in our lives at all.
On a fairly mild March day laced with the promise of spring, my 63-year-old dad went to a doctor’s appointment to review his CPET results and received good news: his heart was in great condition and his cholesterol levels were normal. Buoyed by the results, the next day he and mom, along with 4 friends, left for a 2-week vacation in Florida.
Two days after their arrival, my mom called with the news that my dad had suffered a massive heart attack and had died. Later in the week, the autopsy would reveal he had advanced heart disease which had somehow not shown up in any of his tests.
The fallout after an abrupt and completely unexpected loss like this is monumental, like a giant arm has swept itself across the surface of your life, dumping all of the contents on the floor, and you’re left sorting through the debris. There’s been no preparation, no sense of gearing up… just the task of clearing up and getting on with what’s left.
Fast forward almost 20 years, to a fairly mild March day laced with the promise of spring, when my 77-year-old mom and I went to her doctor’s appointment to do some memory testing, and received difficult news: the slow cognitive decline she had been experiencing for the past number of years had deteriorated into a diagnosis of dementia.
This confirmation of our suspicions was a gentle next step in this gradual loss we’d been experiencing. The changes continue to advance slowly, providing time to reflect, adjust, and grieve when we see certain parts are simply gone for good.
In the spring/summer of 2012, a variety of reasons (led by my mom’s failing memory) compelled us to make an abrupt decision to sell our side-by-side houses (our home was joined by connecting doors to my mom’s home), and move my mom into an assisted living facility while we moved into an apartment. My husband and I had 3 months to sort through and radically down-size two homes’-worth of accumulated memories and goods (all while I was working full time, taking 3 university courses, winding up an old job while preparing to start a new job). Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of inner preparation or gearing up… we just had to get on with the task of clearing things out.
Decisions about all of our possessions, from kitchenware to high school yearbooks to garden supplies were made on the fly. Very strong and very painful emotions that arose during this process had to be acknowledged but put on hold until after the work was done. Since we knew we didn’t want to rent a storage facility for items that wouldn’t fit in our apartment, we chose to sell, donate, or trash whatever wasn’t coming with us. We were brisk, methodical, intentional…and almost robotic in our approach.
Even though we were making all of these decisions ourselves, it still felt as though items and memories were being snatched right out of our hands.
And then it was all over but the crying… when the tasks were completed and we were settled into our apartment, it was time to reflect and process and do the emotional work of letting go of the things we had already physically released. Our minds were so relieved to have less “stuff”, but it took our hearts a little while to catch up.
2 months ago, it was time for my mom to be moved to a fully-assisted living environment, so my sister, husband, and I gathered at my mom’s apartment to sort through her belongings and decide what would stay and what would go. Since the huge purge had taken place some 6 years earlier, this process felt much more manageable and gentle. There was time to carefully reflect on what mom could use and might love to have with her in her new place, and what items we could let go of with good grace. There were certainly some “pangs” involved with letting go of some of her things, but it seemed as though our hearts and our minds were (mostly) on the same page.
Letting Go – of relationships, possessions, identities, dreams, ideas, beliefs – is rarely easy for me to do. When I love something or someone, I tend to hold tight, wanting some kind of permanence and stability. The notion that “Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go” (Mareez Reyes) resonates deeply with me.
I used to prefer changes that would come roaring upon me, where my only job was to withstand the storm and then sift through the wreckage… like when my dad died… like when we chose to move quite suddenly. There was no preliminary sorrow leading up to the event – just the overwhelming grief when the powerful impact hit. The only fight in these instances was the fight to let go.
I was terrified of changes that could be spotted a mile away, where the losses are small but incessant, and the need for processing these griefs is continual and requires intentionality and mindfulness… like my mom’s slow decline into dementia… like sorting through her condo to prepare for her move to a nursing home. I was afraid of feeling both the fight to hold on and the fight to let go.
When it comes to dealing with the complicated emotions that can arise when starting the journey of simplifying, my various experiences have taught me the following:
1. Change – even change we ourselves instigate, invite, and welcome – usually involves a measure of grief.
Change always means a loss of familiarity of some kind, and it’s simply OK to sit with the difficulty and sadness that can arise in the tension of wanting to hold on while simultaneously choosing to let go. Feeling this way isn’t an indication that you’re doing it “wrong”.
2. Since change tends to involve grief, inner courage is required.
I’ve come across many people who are afraid of the emotions that may arise when sorting through their possessions, and so they choose to wait until they think they won’t feel an “emotional charge” when going through their things. This fear and procrastination are perfectly understandable, but I’d like to gently suggest that if you’re waiting until you’re not afraid, you may never actually begin. It takes courage to let yourself feel discomfort and unease in an endeavor that you know is for your benefit and gain. It takes courage to sit with the unexpected fears that bubble up throughout the process. And it takes courage to keep on going with the process in the midst of this discomfort.
3. There is no “one size fits all” technique to sorting through and removing our excess possessions.
There may be a season of life where a huge, intense purge might be the best and kindest way to rid ourselves of the extra “stuff” we have. Other seasons of life may require a gentler, longer, one-thing-a-time method of clearing out. Both approaches will most likely require a measure of inner reflection and processing; neither approach will spare us from the discomfort that might arise.
4. Gratitude is helpful.
I’ve only grown into this learning over the last few years, but I felt its profound effects when sorting through my mom’s things this past March. As I was sifting through various objects or papers or cards, if I came across something that caused an emotional pang, I’d take an extra moment or two to soak in the memory I had of this object and to say “thank you” for it. Then I’d visualize how a new family might use the item to create their own, new, meaningful memories together. I was grateful to recognize that something that felt valuable to me was being passed along to possibly become another family’s treasure.
5. Give yourself permission to grow.
In both our “upheaval” version and our “slower-paced” version of clearing out, we ended up having small “Not Just Yet” piles. Initially, this felt like a cop-out, but I’ve come to see it as a gentle way to help my heart transition from “holding on” to “letting go”. Having a bin of items ear-marked as things I would probably be ready to release in the future, but not just yet gave me permission to acknowledge that I was on a path of growth. Objects I wasn’t able to release in 2012 were much easier to give away in 2018. Having packed them away meant that I wasn’t using them, and re-visiting them down the road meant I had some time to grow into the readiness to send them on their way.
Taking the first step into a simpler, more minimal life may seem daunting and overwhelming, but compassionately allowing yourself to feel the complicated emotions that may arise at these beginning stages while continuing to move forward will set the stage for a more expansive and uncluttered heart-space and living space in the future.
It never crossed my mind to move out of the city after living in New York.
While I was making the move back to Boston, I craved to stay in the fast-paced lifestyle. There was this fear of living on the outskirts: not being able to walk to get overpriced coffee, driving to the grocery store instead of walking to it, taking in the quietness with no cars flying by in the middle of the night, the thoughts shook me to my core. It was all too… slow.
I moved into my tiny Boston apartment, with way too many clothes for my closet, and took myself for a walk to get that overpriced coffee that would get me through the day. I ordered quickly, being rushed by the hurried people behind me, and sat down to take it all in.
The feelings of slowness came to me as I watched everyone in such urgency. Slowness is a funny word in this situation, with such speed buzzing by me. In that moment, with my phone put away, social media not close enough to be scrolled through, I found a way to settle into minimalism in such a fast-moving world.
There wasn’t one specific thing that brought this to my attention, there wasn’t one person who made me realize I could slow down as they hit fast forward right in front of me, there wasn’t a light that lit up right in front of my eyes with words blinking “you need to take a break” but instead there were a million things that came to mind. A million faster than ever thoughts that made me slow down.
I realized, right then and there, that I could live this life I loved so much. I could breathe this city lifestyle I craved and still give myself a moment to take it all in before I missed it; before fast forward became too fast. I didn’t have to give up my favorite way of living to experience another one.
That day, I went home and wrote down five ways to start living less in a city. Five ways that helped me become better, more aware, and much more in-the-moment.
1. Sit at coffee shops with nothing but your coffee.
This one is my favorite because that is how I let myself finally come to the realization that I could live both ways. Take in the souls around you, take in the rushed orders and the baristas ready to pull their hair out. Watch as people hit fast forward while you sit right in the live moment. Sip your coffee slow, put your phone away and let your mind wander with nowhere to be.
2. Accept that you want to live slower.
In order to be better, you need to become better, and in order to become better, you need to tell yourself that you are capable. The first thing you need to let yourself do is accept, because if you can’t accept, you’ll never get there. It’s ok to want to slow down in such a rushed area. It’s ok to want to take it all in for a minute. It’s ok to find a quiet park and lay there with only yourself. It’s ok to walk slower as people are shoulder checking you. It’s all ok, and you need to let yourself know that.
3. Clean out your closet.
Get rid of what you don’t need, what hasn’t been worn within the last year, and what you will never wear again. If you forgot you had it, you probably won’t wear it again, or you need to remove all the clothes that were hiding that specific piece. If you want to live a minimalist lifestyle in a fast-moving city, get ready to remove clutter. Once you remove unnecessary pieces, you will instantly feel more free and more calm, and much more ready to live this life you’ve chosen.
4. Find your quiet spot.
I’m telling you, it’s out there. No matter what city you are in, you can find a spot where you are able to sit and breathe with no one there to bother you. Walk around and look for it, then go to this spot regularly. Read a book, magazine, your phone even, whatever you want. Just make sure you find your spot, it’ll come in handy at just the right times.
5. You can live the city life tomorrow.
It’s important to let yourself know that you can still live this fast-paced lifestyle whenever you please, but for today, you are going to let yourself live slower. You are going to more minimalistic in this city, because you need it. Even if you only do this for 24-hours out of an entire month, that’s ok. Once you realize that the city is still right in front of you, that this lifestyle isn’t going anywhere, you will be able to slow down easier. You don’t have to give it all up, you just need to let your mind know that.