Two Great Reads on Simplifying Your Life

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I’m a big reader, so I’m always excited when someone else nerds out about simple living and writes a good book about it. Two of my favorites lately have been The More of Less by Joshua Becker and The Big Tiny by Dee Williams. Here’s why I think you should pick up both:

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

The More of Less

I’ve been a longtime fan of Joshua Becker’s blog, becomingminimalist, so I was very excited to read his new book.

As a parent, I can appreciate the context through which Joshua writes. The catalyst for his minimalism journey was the realization that instead of playing with his son, he had spent an entire day reorganizing his garage, and by keeping everything in it, he would have to reorganize again…and again..and again. By holding on to belongings that he didn’t need, it was distracting him from the life that he actually wanted to live. If his family rid themselves of excess possessions, they would have more time and more financial resources to do the things that they really wanted to do.

The More of Less is one part memoir, one part examination of our consumerist culture, and one part how-to. Joshua does a great job of continually requiring the reader to identify their own “why” for making this type of life change, understanding that by doing so, the “what” and “how” will naturally follow. It will look different for everyone; the key is to determine your version of “just enough” and figure out how to make it mesh with your personal values.

Favorite quote:

It was hard to choose, but this was a good one about living intentionally:

“This is what makes the unexamined life so dangerous. We think we are living life to the fullest but we aren’t. Instead, we are often trading long-term purpose for short-term pleasure.”

 

The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

The Big Tiny

I had heard about Dee Williams a few years back while reading Tammy Strobel’s blog, Rowdy Kittens. Dee is a tiny house builder in Olympia, Washington, who had built a tiny house for Tammy and her husband. The first tiny house Dee built was her own, which was born out of a health scare and the desire to downsize. The book walks through Dee’s journey from owning the big house and being diagnosed with congestive heart failure, to getting rid of most of her belongings and learning how to build a space that fit the life she wanted to create.

One of the things I loved most about the book was that she doesn’t sugarcoat ANYTHING. It’s not an adorable tale about how her life is perfect now because she lives in a cute little house. Although she does love where she is, she discusses the struggles associated with living in such a small space and that even she is just like the rest of us–she still wants plenty of things she doesn’t need. Dee just doesn’t have anywhere to put any of it.

Favorite quote:

I’m picking two, because although the book was thought-provoking, it also became clear that Dee has a very dry sense of humor.

#1: “Letting go of ‘stuff’ allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me.”

#2: “The sun came out and we threw all sorts of crap into the chipper: rotten lumber, an old rubber boot (because we could, though we later discovered it was a pain in the buttocks to remove the little rubber bits from the compost), crappy wood planters, cedar shakes, and tree limbs.” –> I mean, come on… You have to read it now, right?

Whatever your life looks like- single or married, kids or no kids, big house with lots of stuff or little apartment with not much stuff- these two books provide enough inspiration to meet you where you are without feeling preachy. They were enjoyable reads, and I’d highly recommend both!

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How Scaling Back T.V. Time Has Improved My Life

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I grew up during the prime of old-school Nickelodeon shows (Clarissa Explains it All, etc.) and TGIF. Many hours were spent learning how to best wear my stirrup pants, scrunch socks, and all that neon. Later, teen shows (Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five)  kept me busy when I’d get home from play practice in high school. During college, there were days when I would watch t.v. for hours on end, starting at 4 p.m. (hey, Oprah) and not ending until I went to bed. As an adult, I curated a massive list of “my shows” that I hated to miss every week.

Then about a year ago, we decided to get rid of regular cable and just keep the basic channels. However, we still had access to Netflix, and Hulu, and Amazon Prime, and Apple T.V., and…oh my.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that turning on the t.v. felt more like a habit, and less like a decision. I would turn it on to watch one of the morning shows at 7:00 a.m., under the premise of “watching the news.” I don’t know if you’ve watched one of these shows lately, but “the news” lasts for about 5 minutes and “the not news” lasts for about 4 hours. I don’t need to know 10 different ways to curl my hair, or what Justin Bieber is up to, or what the medical scare of the week is. At night, the t.v. would go on starting with the (actual) news, and wouldn’t get turned off until bedtime. I was becoming increasingly irritable and feeling short-changed on free-time until I realized, oh. I don’t HAVE to watch t.v.

<insert image of mind being blown>

I know, right? It had become such an ingrained habit, that I didn’t realize that I was no longer consciously choosing to watch it. It’s just what I did each day.

I decided to experiment with cutting back: no t.v. in the morning, and at night, no turning it on unless I know that there is something specific that I want to watch. Here are 5 ways those simple steps have improved my life lately:

  1. More time to relax: Instead of watching t.v. before bed, I’ve been sitting on our back porch with a book and a beer or a cup of tea.
  2. Less of a desire to spend money: For every 30 minutes of television, there seem to be about 10 minutes of commercials. Add that to product placement in t.v. shows and movies, and you could be watching hours of ads each day. Cutting back on t.v. has drastically limited my exposure, and as a result, has made me want to make fewer purchases.
  3. More quality time spent with my husband and my daughter: This has been one of my favorite results. Instead of being distracted by the t.v., we’ve taken family walks, played board games, cooked, spent time with friends/family, and read books to the little peanut. It’s so much better than simply sitting in a room together, staring at a screen.
  4. More time to tackle projects: Many of the projects that I thought I just didn’t have time to do have suddenly become..do-able. This blog? I “didn’t have time” to write it a month ago.
  5. Healthier lifestyle choices: On the nights that I don’t watch t.v., I tend to go to bed earlier. I also move around a lot more, spend more time outdoors, and give my brain a rest.

This is not to say that I’ve quit t.v. entirely. There are still a few shows that I enjoy watching, and on a rainy day, there are few things that feel better than curling up in front of a good movie. It’s all about being conscious of the entertainment I’m consuming, and making sure that it doesn’t consume me.

‘Minimalism’: A Film Review

minimlismLast week, I went to see the new documentary by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus (otherwise known as The Minimalists). I’ve wanted to write a review of it for the past few days, but I felt like I needed to let it settle in my brain first.

The documentary followed The Minimalists on a 2014 cross-country tour to promote their latest book. Scattered throughout the film were interviews with different individuals who have found ways to simplify certain areas of their lives, along with a few researchers and scholars.

One of the best parts of the film was its accessibility. If you’ve seen The Minimalists at all, whether on their website, on social media, or on one of their numerous television appearances, you know that these guys lead bare bones lives (by choice). Here’s JFM’s old dining room, for example:

dining room

That might work for some people, but many others might perceive it as sterile. However, the documentary wasn’t a diatribe on getting rid of your belongings. Instead, The Minimalists centered their argument around whittling your life down to what you need to live a meaningful live. They interviewed people who live in normal sized houses, but have just enough space and belongings to support the life they want. There was a woman who simplified her life and moved into a tiny house with her husband. Other clips included an ABC news anchor who learned to incorporate mindfulness meditation in to his life. The interviews were diverse enough that almost anyone could easily find something that spoke to them.

The part that stuck out to me the most was one of the clips with Patrick Rhone, a writer and essayist. He made the point that we need to determine what we want our lives to look like, then figure out what we need to achieve that vision. If we have too much (stuff, people, to-do lists), we won’t be able to achieve our vision. BUT, if we have too little, we won’t be able to achieve it either. We each need to find that happy medium for ourselves.

One of the other parts that resonated with me was a scene in which Ryan Nicodemus discusses a conversation he had with an attendee at one of their events. The attendee was working on minimizing, but didn’t want to get rid of his book collection because he loved re-reading the books, he loved the smell of the books, he loved sharing them with friends and family, etc. Ryan’s response: “keep them!” Again, the whole point is to keep the things in your life that serve a purpose (in this case, the book collection was a huge source of happiness, connection, and contentment), not to get rid of everything just for the sake of getting rid of it.

My only criticism of the film would be that I was left wanting more from some of the people they interviewed. I think it would have been interesting to show how some of the interview subjects actually incorporate minimalism into their daily lives, rather than just hearing them talk about it for a couple of minutes. I’m pretty sure that if you pre-order the digital version of the documentary, though, you get access to about 6 hours of interview footage that wasn’t included in the film.

All in all, I loved it, and I can’t wait to watch it again. If you’re interested, you can check out clips from the documentary here.