Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Easiest Burger in the World

by Kristen Suzanne in grass fed beef, recipe

Easiest burger in the world.

In a mad rush one night earlier this week, I came up with a fantastic way to make burgers. Fast.

I knew I had ground beef. But instead of making patties, seasoning them just so, and standing over the stove as I cooked ‘em up. I decided I simply wanted to smash the beef into one big square, bake it, add some cheese, cut. Done.

Minimal handling. Quick cooking. 

And? Ha. It worked like a charm! I’ll forever whip up burgers like this cuz it’s just too darn easy. 

I like easy.

So here’s how to do it in pictures. :)

Toss that pound of (grass-fed) beef in the center of a pan.

When possible, let that beef sit (wrapped) on the counter to take the chill off from being in the refrigerator. When I was in my mad frenzy to make dinner the other night, I called my husband from the road and said screamed, “GET THE MEAT OUT!”

It’s time to get the beef flat for easy cooking. No making multiple patties here. Think of it as one big-ass burger.

Giver ‘er a quick smash. No crazy handling, just a quick smash to flatten it out.

I envisioned a giant square, when I thought this idea up, and that’s what worked for me. That way I could cut it into four nice patties after cooking.

Also, my intention was to keep it on the thinner side to help it cook faster. 

Okey-dokey. Smashing success. ;)

Get out the salt. And pepper (and anything else to sprinkle on top, maybe garlic powder or turmeric powder? When in a rush, stick to just salt and pepper).

Season generously with salt and pepper. Repeat after me: Season generously.

I baked mine at 375 for about 10 minutes (which of course you turned the oven on before starting the prep, right?). You might cook for a shorter time to get a medium-rare burger. The idea here is that it cooks pretty fast and that’s the whole point of this exercise, eh? 

Bake away. Love my lil Breville oven.

When it’s reached the right temperature for you, add sliced cheese. Turn off the oven and stick the pan back inside, with the oven door closed so it melts.

Ahhhhh the cheese. Yes cheese please! (grass-fed, of course)

Cut that big square of cheesy beef into four smaller squares. You’re ready to serve on buns, sourdough bread, a lettuce bun, or just eat that deliciousness as is. With mustard.

Side note: Hopefully, while the meat was cooking, you made a healthy side dish veggie. However, the first time I made this… the time I was in a crazy rush, I didn’t even bother with a side. I figured the homemade pickled onions I threw on top were enough. That’s motherhood, though, right?

At least the second time I made this, so that I could capture the process in photos for you, I threw some brussels sprouts in my INSTANT POT(!). They cooked with perfect timing to the beef cooking.

(I used my Instant Pot three times today to make veggies: the first time I made dandelion greens, the second time I made carrots, and the third time I made the brussels sprouts. I definitely eat way more veggies now that I have an Instant Pot. They’re just SO EASY to make in it.)

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Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Getting My Daughter On Board with Minimalism via a Donation Box

 

Donation Box worked like a charm.

 
When I started my amazing journey into minimalism, my daughter didn’t quite buy into it. 
 
She didn’t know why I would get rid of so many pretty things. So much stuff that we might want back someday. 
 
It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve been donating things, but I became really serious about it recently. Though she’s been watching, it wasn’t sinking in totally. Yet. 
 
But she does see me happier. She loves that. 
 
You see, I love my life with fewer things. It frees up my mind, spirit, and body to enjoy what’s really important. When I have less to distract me, I can spend more attention on better things. 
 
Quality over quantity. 
 
To be clear… it’s not a life with nothing in it. It’s a life with only the things that I use. Things I love and use. Things I love and use and I would buy again today. Things that “spark joy” and I love and I use and I would buy again today. 
 
Funny but most things do NOT fall into this category.
 
Anyway, enough about me. This post is about my daughter and how SHE got on board with minimalism.
 
It all came down to a “donation box” (or basket or container).
 
I came across the tip while listening to The Minimalists’ podcast. They suggested simply putting out a box with a sign on it for donations. From there, when other family members see fit, they can add to the box when they’re ready. No more trying to talk my daughter into donating things that I knew she really wasn’t using. 
 
Here’s the best part:
 
The container wasn’t out even five minutes before she started filling it up.
 
Yay(!), and then there was a time later that night that she couldn’t be disturbed because she was going through her stuff and telling me what “didn’t spark joy” and what “didn’t have value” for her.  
 
She understands it better now, and she’ll appreciate it even more over time. We’re giving these things that no longer are of use to us and helping them find another family who could use them. Making more space in her room and closet. Making time for the things that matter more than “things” – like us playing outside together or reading together or snuggling. 
 

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Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Minimalism Made Me Skinny

by Kristen Suzanne in food journal, hemp seeds, Minimalism

Minimalism trimmed my waist.

 
An unexpected benefit occurred from my deeper dive into minimalism.
 
I lost a few pounds. Admittedly, I didn’t have much to lose, but I didn’t mind losing a couple.  I expect that if I had more to lose I would, because with minimalism on my mind for things and stuff, it’s seeping into my behavior with food. 
 
For starters, with minimalism (and saving money as a side effect!), I started buying less at the grocery store, kind of without even realizing it. Now, I wait until I’m actually out of something before I buy it again. In the past, I’d stock up on various foods – for what reason I really don’t know.
 
Not anymore though. I’m a new woman. So, yeah, my cupboards, on occasion, look like the apocalypse is happening now, but I love it!
 
I realize that in the past, if my cupboards were full, I ate more. By having less, I ration the foods better. I snack less. I’m not as hungry. 
 
That’s a win for me. 
 
So now when I grocery shop, I usually only get fresh organic produce and grass-fed full-fat yogurt(s)/butter. If the pantry isn’t out of stuff, then I hold off on adding to it. That means I’m also spending less overall. Yay.
 
The exception is when I load up on stuff from Costco. Cuz, well it’s Costco and I don’t have a choice. My favorite organic foods from Costco are:
  • fair-trade coffee
  • rice
  • raw sauerkraut
  • chia seeds and hemp seeds
  • bananas and apples
  • coconut oil
  • frozen berries
  • frozen wild-caught sockeye salmon
  • wild planet tuna in a can
 
My mindfulness attitude of consuming fewer things (clothes, toys, makeup, furniture, etc) transferred to my eating. Without even trying. 
 

Let’s dive in!

 
Funny thing… years ago we bought this giant bin of Survive Thrive food which included 40 days/nights of organic preparedness foods. It was sealed shut and stored away. The other day I told Greg, “Let’s open that up and eat through it!” 
 
It was funny (and cool) opening it up. Now we have a bunch of organic vacuum-sealed foods to eat through. 
 
*Update: My intention with this writing was to share how minimalism is changing other behaviors in my life, for the better, in my opinion. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to be *skinny* or even saying that *skinny* is the way to be. I’m actually lean vs skinny but somehow that didn’t read as well in my subject line. 
 

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Monday, March 13th, 2017

My Research Protocol For Moving Abroad

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, travel

I want to travel the world. Worldschool.


The Process
A short while back I wrote that the light bulb went on for me, with respect to having the freedom to up and move abroad, after reading the book, Global Student. Suddenly, it started coming together as a reality. We could really do this. We can move abroad and travel the world. For as long as we want.
 
That reality, back then, meant that our time was T-18 months before moving. (It’s now about 15 months.)
 
Having 18 months to plan this adventure of digital nomadism and expat life is proving to be extremely helpful. We have tons of time to:
  • Research possible locations.
  • Get passports, banking, and things of the like taken care of.
  • Take in every present moment right where we are, Carefree (AZ) which we love.
Once the idea hit us about moving and we had a target date of June 2018, I started with Pinterest.
 
Pinterest!
From Pinterest I found hundreds of articles for different destinations that I could later dive into for research. I spent a few nights… Pin Pin Pin Pin. I created boards for Europe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand… of which later I created more specific boards: Mallorca, Tulum, Italy, France, Portugal, etc.
 
It was super fun. Here’s one of my favorite pictures I found on Pinterest. (source: Annelibush.com)

That sums it up for me. I’m going there.

 
Once I had my Pinterest boards figured out, each with plenty of Pins, I checked the various articles linked from them. That started a deeper dive.
 
Evernote!
It wasn’t long before it started to become overwhelming and I wanted a better way to organize it. Therefore, I chose to create notes in Evernote to keep it clean and handy. At first I had a Master list of regions with corresponding links to research later. It was one whole list of possible destinations with whatever links I thought might be interesting for each place. I set it all up to research at a later date (which I’ve since done) – deleting and adding destinations as I learned more.
 
From there, I added lists with links for things like:
  • packing lists
  • airfare sites and tips
  • expat experts
  • travel visa info
  • digital nomadism
  • technology for travel 
  • travel with kids
  • housesitting
  • rewards credit cards
  • travel insurance
 
Books!
Through my internet research, I learned of some great travel books and read a few with respect to saving money, traveling with kids, and housesitting. I even bought a book (couldn’t find it at the library!), The Art of Risk, which I’m hoping encourages me to push beyond my comfort zone. That will be helpful living abroad.
 

She’s a great travel writer and blogger.

 
Google Alerts!
I also set up google alerts of different towns/regions so I can get more familiar with them, including any potential safety issues. For example, we had Playa on our list for Mexico, but late last year there was some violence that caused me to keep an eye on the area over the next 15 months. I also learned about a supposedly amazing place for pizza in Oaxaca using Google Alerts, so there ya go.
 
Podcasts!
Both Greg and I are listening to podcasts of expats and digital nomads. It’s nice hearing the real life stories of people doing exactly what we plan to do.
 
For the first couple months I spent all of my spare time doing this research. After narrowing down our immediate destinations (looks like Mexico first and then Portugal or Italy), I’m able to look deeper in those areas and hold off on the other places. Side note: crazy awesome story is it looks like I’m eligible for Italian citizenship which would be game-changing for us.
 

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Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Instant Pot Pasta – 15 Minute Meal in One Pot!

by Kristen Suzanne in instant pot, Motherhood, omnivore, recipe

Instant Pot Pasta. One pot. Too easy!

 

I’m back at it again. Sharing another fantastic meal to make in the Instant Pot

I LOVE MY INSTANT POT! (that’s me screaming)

Regular readers of my blog know this, because I frequently gush about this magical kitchen robot. 

Ok, it’s not magical, but it makes me feel like I’m living a magical life from all the free time I have since I’m not spending it cooking all the time. (Mostly) hands-free cooking. Yes Yes Yes.

My family eats damn near ALL of our meals at home. That’s a lot of time in the kitchen … unless you have a brilliant Instant Pot. I have since talked a few people into buying Instant Pots, and they, too, don’t know how they lived without one.

Easy to use. Quick cooking. Nutritious. Easy to clean.

Get one here! (<– that’s an affiliate link in case you didn’t know so it doesn’t cost you extra to buy through it but it gives my blog a little cha-ching – thank you!)

Here’s how I make a ridiculously delicious meal in 15 minutes with my Instant Pot.

Stirring in some grass-fed mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons butter (grass-fed, unsalted)
  • 1 jar (25 oz or so) organic pasta sauce
  • 1 to 3 pinches sea salt
  • Dr. Cowan’s veggie powders, totally optional (affiliate link, same drill as above)
  • 1 box noodles (I like Jovial gluten-free)*
  • 1 to 2 cups filtered or spring water (or bone broth!)
  • Mozzarella cheese (grass-fed, organic)
  1. Get out your awesome Instant Pot
  2. Put the butter inside it. Add the sauce and the sea salt. Add Dr. Cowan’s veggie powders at this time if you’re using (I love these powders… see WHY here and get a coupon code for your first order.)
  3. Add the noodles. Add the water (the goal with the water is that you add at least a cup plus any extra needed to just about barely cover the noodles. It’s ok if they’re not submerged – I don’t submerge them all the way with a few peeking out).
  4. Put the lid on your trusty awesome Instant Pot. Set it to LOW pressure for 5-minutes (if your box listed cook time of 9 to 10 minutes – see note below).
  5. Go do something enjoyable because in about 15 minutes it’s all done (10 minutes to reach pressure, 5 minutes to cook).
  6. When the time is up, quick release the pressure. 
  7. Add plenty of cubed mozzarella for kick ass flavor.

* Tip for cooking noodles in the instant pot with respect to time and temperature: cook them for HALF the time listed on the box and cook them on LOW pressure. Therefore, if my box reads 10-minutes, I’ll cook on them on LOW for 5-minutes. If my box reads 9-minutes, then I’ll round up and cook them for 5-minutes on LOW pressure.

Extra tip: Oh, sometimes I add a pound of crumbled (grass-fed!) ground beef on top of the noodles. I don’t change anything else as this is enough time for me to cook the ground beef right along with everything else. I season the beef with sea salt, too.

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Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Hypermiling is Sexy.

by Kristen Suzanne in Meditation, Minimalism, travel
 

Bring it on! 77.6 MPG!

 
Remember when I told you (yesterday) my awesome story of downsizing our car by trading in the minivan for a Prius? 
 
Well, something else happened as a result of driving a Prius.
 
I not only saved money on the car and the gas it uses (because it’s a hybrid and smaller), but I started saving even more money through hypermiling.
 
What the heck is hypermiling?
 
It’s basically driving mindfully as f*ck to use less gas (and save money! yeah baby!).
 
Or according to a quick google search:
hy·per·mil·ing
the practice of making adjustments to a vehicle or using driving techniques that will maximize the vehicle’s fuel economy. 
 
My use of hypermiling:
  • I don’t speed. 
  • I use air conditioning and/or open windows wisely.
  • I pay attention to all cars and what they might do so as to plan my own speed/braking accordingly.
  • I’m slower to accelerate whenever I can.
  • I eliminate wasteful trips and plan multi-destination outings.
  • Walking when possible.
If we all hypermiled, then we’d have fewer car crashes because it really makes you pay attention at all times. For example, the second I look at my GPS I realize that, dammit, the light ahead turned red and I should’ve already been coasting! 
 
High-Five for the Prius in teaching me about hypermiling, because a Prius makes it easy to hypermile. The gauges let me know how many miles per gallon I’m using at all stages of driving so I can make smarter choices in how I accelerate and brake. I also get to see when my car is running on just the battery which saves gas.
 

Oh yeah! 52.4 MPG.

 
I wish I could get a picture of my dashboard featuring my hypermiling in action, but well, that’d take me out of hypermiling mode and um be dangerous. We’ll settle for post-driving pics.
 
Yes, it takes me a tiny bit longer to get everywhere. Yes, people aren’t pleased when I’m a bit slower to accelerate after a red light (not dangerously though, duh). Yes, people would prefer I go beyond the speed limit and break the law.
 
But you know what?
 
Fuck ‘em. I’m hypermiling and hypermiling is SEXY! I think of the money and lives I’m saving by doing this. A richer ($) and better driver? Sign me up.
 
And, as I mentioned before, it amps up my mindfulness muscle. As a person who meditates, I’m all over that.
 
As mentioned earlier, a tip for hypermiling that I practice: Combining trips for things. (I use to suck at that, but now I’m a pro.)
 
There was a time not too long ago, that if I ran out of eggs, I would just drive to whole foods. It was only 6 miles away. Big deal (or so I thought). I didn’t think twice about it. You know what though? It is a big deal. It allllllllllll adds up (time, money, wear on the car, gas, risk etc).
 
Nowadays, I stretch out the time between trips as long as possible. I create a list of places and things I need to do and when it gets to the point where I gotta go somewhere, then I strategize to make the most of my trip. Silly to some, but when I realize I can go somewhere and hit two (or three – gasp!) spots in the same trip… well., I jump up-and-down, clapping my hands while squealing. 
 
Cuz that’s a win!
 

That’s how I feel hypermiling.

 

(I’m still trying to talk Greg into selling the Mercedes.)

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Minimalism Time: Minivan to Prius Downsizing

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, Minimalism, Motherhood, travel

Big-ass minivan

 
Living a life with a minimalist emphasis is a work in progress, naturally.
 
Even though I’ve sold and donated many things and happily reduced my overall consumerism footprint, I’m continuously finding new things to let go.
 
For the next step in our minimalism adventure, I wanted to look at our two cars. We have an old Mercedes (sedan) and a pretty-new Toyota sienna minivan. Greg drives the Mercedes, primarily. I drive the Toyota minivan.
 
I told Greg that I thought we could survive with one car, because we’re both home a lot. He works from home and I’m retired (I homeschool our daughter and play domestic goddess, but I don’t report to anyone –> retired).
 
I figured there might be a bit of sacrifice with a one-car plan, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. I loved the idea of getting a bit of cash for the Mercedes, too.
 
He was reluctant though.
 
Since the Mercedes is paid for (though it frequently hates us and has issues), he thinks we should keep it around. Just in case. 
 
Then, he dared to suggest something. Since we’re interested in saving money, and going minimalist, I should pursue the idea of reducing the impact our awesome, gorgeous, fun, big minivan has… by going for something smaller. He offered trading in the minivan for a used car that is smaller and less expensive. 
 
Oh shit. I didn’t expect that.
 
Ummmm…. I. Love. Our. Minivan.
 
I squirmed and got a bit uncomfortable, berating myself for opening this shit-can of worms.
 
Whoops.
 
Fast forward only a day or two later and that damn planted seed was taking root in my soul. 
 
Why do I even have a minivan? Well, I know why I bought it originally. I didn’t care about gas prices. We like road trips. It’s new and has a nice warranty. It can handle a lot of groceries. I can move a table in it. And… for everything else… just. in. case.
 
Hhhhmmmmmm….. well. Let me be honest with myself.
 
I rarely move tables. I don’t buy that many groceries. I DO (now) care about gas prices and the impact a larger vehicle has on our earth. And, although we like road trips, we’re planning to move abroad in a little over a year so we will be selling (both) cars by then anyway.
 
Fast forward another day and I’m driving our BIG minivan with Kamea in the back to run some (local) errands. Wow. There’s a lot of space in this vehicle for ONLY TWO PEOPLE. Kamea and I are the primary users of this BIG minivan and it has a LOT of room in it for only us. Even with Greg, it’s still overkill for three people, especially given our future abroad.
 
Well, whaddya know? I’m starting to dislike my minivan. I’m starting to feel wasteful driving it. I’m starting to give it the stink-eye.
 
WTF? Less than a week ago I was loving it, and now I can’t wait to downsize. 
 
Off to the Internets I went to car shop. 
 
Long story short, I fell in love with Prius cars because they’re hybrid, smaller, made by Toyota, and fucking cute as hell. 

Let’s Dance.

 
Done. Minivan traded in. Used Prius bought. 
 
I’m crazy happy with our choice and wish I’d done it sooner. 
 

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Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter – Just Too Easy

by Kristen Suzanne in recipe

Homemade goodness

I was on the hunt for some nut or seed butters in the store recently.

I wanted something to have on hand for:

  • snacking with celery and raisins
  • frozen berry smoothies (the fat in the nuts or seeds helps our bodies assimilate more nutrition from the produce)
  • just a spoonful when I want a little something in my belly that’s easy and quick

Something was holding me back from buying anything like that from the store. Something something something…

Oh yeah… price and quality. To be fair there are some good organic nut and seed butters out there, but I decided I wanted a seed butter. At the time the prospects weren’t attractive because they were either stored in plastic or they weren’t organic or they were just too damn pricey.

And, duh, I remembered that I had raw organic sunflower seeds sitting in my cupboard at home. :)

I made my own. Cuz. It’s just too easy.

Here’s what I did…

(I took the extra step to toast them a bit in a pan on the stove for fun and extra flavor.)

Put the seeds in a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade. Add a pinch (or two) of sea salt, if desired.

Let it whirl, and whirl, and whirl and whirl and whirl whhhiiiirrrlllllll

…until it’s nut or seed butter. 

Beginning stages… go go go!

A few times in the process I scraped down the sides.

Voila! Sunflower seed butter. 

Let’s eat!

 

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Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Please Support Our New Project: Children’s Book for Girls in STEAM / STEM

by Kristen Suzanne in books, kamea, kids, Kristen Suzanne, Motherhood

Let’s do this!

(I’m very excited!)

My husband, Greg, his business partner, Pam, and I are working on a new project and we’d love your support.

We’ll soon be launching a Kickstarter to publish a children’s book to empower girls for careers in STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). As the mother of a daughter, this is something that’s very important to me. 

 

 

STEAMTEAM 5: THE BEGINNING

STEAMTEAM 5: The Beginning is a children’s book that tells the story of five amazing girls who use science, technology, engineering, art, and math to do amazing things. This book is the first volume of a fictional universe built around these characters, designed to grow so that they can serve as ongoing role models for young girls.

This story is awesome!

But this is much more than just a book.

It’s the beginning of a movement.

Science education happening here.

This movement is to attract girls to careers in STEM/STEAM. 

To do this, we need your help!

Kickstarter campaigns are most successful when lots of people hit all at once. If you are interested in being a backer, please sign up to receive announcements so that we can build up our list and direct a ton of people on the day of the launch.

Please help us KICK ASS with Kickstarter! Sign up here. 

Together, we can get more girls going into STEAM!

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Friday, February 17th, 2017

Expat Preparation Means Minimalism, Living Leaner, More Badass

by Kristen Suzanne in Minimalism, travel

A tiny purse (instant pot for scale)

 

Another step in preparing to be expats, digital nomads, slow travelers, worldschoolers… whatever we want to call it… minimalism plays a part.

I’m going through each room, closet, area of the condo and deciding what I use, love, and want to keep.

Are there things that I like but aren’t used often? Are there things that spark joy but that I would’t buy again if I were deciding today? What am I attached to? Do particular items bring me happiness or do they just satisfy my ego? I think ego plays a big role for some things. 

For the next year we will slowly rid ourselves of a lot of… stuff.

I’m partial to my Le Creuset collection (quality pots and pans), but I have to ask myself, “Is it worth paying storage fees to keep these?” What if we’re gone for years? That monthly storage rent adds up, and I could probably buy these things again for the same price that paying to store them for so long would cost. If we’re lucky, fingers crossed, my mom and mother-in-law will give us a bit of space to store things there. 

My passion for minimalism actually started last year. I was tired of decision making fatigue so I started making fewer daily decisions. Ergo: minimalism. 

  • Have fewer clothes (I wear most of the same stuff day in and day out anyway) and less to look at in my closet, fewer decisions, more energy.
  • Having fewer lipsticks, believe it or not, is less decision making fatigue. 
  • Having a regular rotation of meals and foods so that I’m not constantly thinking about what to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 
  • Having less to dust gives me more time and energy to do other things. 

Recently, I downsized my purse, but it wasn’t without stress. After multiple attempts, I finally said, “Fuck it, I’m going lean.” I went from a larger purse packed with a large essential oil spray (cuz I might need it), snacks (cuz if I don’t have snacks I’ll be hungry), pens (cuz my kid needs to draw at the restaurants we don’t go to), various membership cards (rarely used), makeup, bandaids (cuz you never know), earbuds, cell phone, car keys, kleenex, handkerchief (cuz it’s pretty), and more ——> to ——> a tiny 6-inch purse that fits very little. 

For the tiny purse, I opted for lip balm, lip/cheek stain (two in one – yeah!) plus my phone, keys, a small bottle of essential oil (I had to), earbuds (I use these a lot), wallet minus membership cards (those I’ll keep in the car). I decided to carry a few snacks in the car for desperate times. 

I’m feeling badass as a result.

Risky behavior to be so spartan – or so I thought.

Turns out I love the freedom of the small purse. I might not have a bison bar in it, but forcing myself to be hungry once in a while isn’t going to kill me. It’ll make me stronger? 

Minimalism is giving me a lightness, a leanness, and an overall badass experience. To know I require so little in the way of material possessions is empowering. 

Let’s see. That’s more energy from less decision making fatigue. More time from less dusting. More freedom from having less. 

Minimalism for the win.

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