I feel like I began my blog in medias res. I want to backtrack and talk about the process of slowing one’s life. I know my last few posts have been about overshooting slow and landing on stop, but I must say that I prefer my empty, minimalist, calm – if sometimes boring – life to the hectic, weight-on-my-chest, unconscious one that I have led at times before.
First, I want to focus on the technology we allow into our lives. I’ve written about deleting Facebook, but I want to talk more broadly about how we communicate with one another. There are 1001 articles talking about the paradox of being simultaneously more and less connected than ever before. And while, yes, I agree, this post isn’t about that. I want to charge each of us to think about the value of different kinds of communication. I deleted Facebook largely because I felt that even when I was connecting with people I normally wouldn’t, the value of that connection wasn’t very high. A comment left on someone’s wall is quickly written, quickly appreciated, and quickly forgotten. There is a direct correlation between how much effort is put into an interaction and how much value it adds to a relationship. When you have to reach out to someone directly by making a telephone call, writing an email/handwritten letter, or even visiting in order to connect, your relationship deepens and matures accordingly. Meanwhile, a text or “like” is a forgettable action, one that doesn’t make any significant impact, and yet we spend huge portions of our day dedicated to such actions.
To meditate on this idea, I want you to join me for a challenge. For two days, let’s refuse to text or connect through Facebook. More importantly, when we are in another’s company, let’s relish it. That means no cell phone usage while we are spending time with someone else. Let’s look each other in the eye. Recognize life as the present moment right in front of us.
If we can, let’s move to thinking about our everyday activities. How do you spend your day? Where do the hours go? I know before I decluttered my life, I spent a couple hours a day on Facebook, several hours watching HGTV, and probably an hour checking email. None of these things is inherently bad, I want to make clear. However, when we are thinking about “Our Life” (dun dun duuuuun), we simply mean the way we spend the hours of our days. And if we allow it, our days – and life – will slip through our fingers as we are numbing our minds with unnecessary and distracting activities. So let’s bring light and brightness and clarity back to our minds. Let’s examine our lives by examining our small, everyday activities.
So, ask yourself, what do I do everyday that brings me energy? What do I do everyday that tires me? How can you maximize those energizing activities and eliminate the tiring ones?
I’d love to hear your answers if you have the time to write me here.
Finally – you knew you wouldn’t get away without me talking about it – minimalism. Minimalism for me is about two things: decluttering my existing life and minimizing my expenses. I’ve written about decluttering already, but I want to focus a bit more on deciding where my money goes.
Recently I’ve been struggling about what to do career-wise since I’m having an impossible time finding a traditional job. But something keeps telling me this is a blessing. For all my grumblings, I’m learning the skills of building a life when things out of your control aren’t going well. Specifically, I’ve learned how to live on a shoestring budget, only buying those things that are really important: rent, utilities (water, electric, internet), yoga, banjo lessons, and chai. Seriously, that’s almost an exclusive list of things I’ve spent money on in the past month. What are the non-negotiables for you?
As a first step, take one week and track your expenses. You can use Mint services if you want to do it electronically. I love this service because a “QuickView” button can live on your menu bar, constantly reminding you where your money lives. It has also been an incredible tool for managing my student loans. Before I linked my student loan accounts to Mint, I always just ballparked the number I owed. Mint tracks the interest accruing and my monthly payments to the cent. It will even create a repayment plan based on your income (however little it may be!).
After this weeklong practice, answer: what are you consuming thoughtlessly? For me, it was unhealthy groceries, alcohol, and clothes. After seriously analyzing my expenses with Mint, I realized, “Man, I don’t have to work nearly as many hours at this job I don’t enjoy when I don’t spend money needlessly.” See what you can do to change your life by changing your expenses.
Think of this time as a way to account for every bit of your life. My mom had a revelation earlier today when she said, “Wow. Maybe it is better to have fewer things and know where they are all the time.” By decluttering our mental and physical spaces, we are opening a place.
A broad, bright, clean space.
What does that space look like to you? Take a moment, breathe, and imagine it.
My partner once made me a journal with an origami fox and signed it, “A place for my fox to think.”
You, too, can create a space.
Clear out your life so that you have room to breathe, create, and thrive.