Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Minimalism + Craigslist: Feeling Good AND Making Money!

by Kristen Suzanne in family, Minimalism

Making money via Craig’s List.

I’m on a mission.  
 
I’m on a mission to become financially independent as quickly as I can. Some call it early retirement, but I prefer simply Financially Independent. 
 
Why Financially Independent?
  • We like to be our own bosses. For everything. (I’m suddenly recalling that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts says, “I say who! I say when! I say who!”)
  • I value TIME with my family, by myself, and with friends.
  • When we can get to the mountain top of financial independence, we play by our rules. And that(!) is freedom at its finest. 
So, I’m on a mission: Financial Independence. 

First though, I had to make some changes. Some big changes and some small changes. 

Back story: I was turned on to this plan of “early retirement” via Mr. Money Mustache’s blog which details how he and his wife retired at an incredibly young age, by cutting expenses and being smart with saving their money. When a family is financially independent they can work, but they don’t have to. They can choose what they do with their time. Funny thing is although they’re  “retired” they’re staying busy and making money on their own terms

I highly recommend his blog. I read my way through the whole thing in a week

When I read about their experience, I was hooked.

I immediately started making a plan for how we could do the same thing. 

Shit. I was wasting a lot of money though. 

I might as well have been throwing money out the window. Spending money on stupid things (hindsight and all). I’ll never live down the “kefir experiment” with my husband -> that time I kept our home to a chilly temperature, in summertime, in Arizona, just to properly culture kefir even though it yielded a $500+ per month electric bill. 

The good thing is that I’m making changes NOW, and it’s better late than never. And I gotta tell ya… I’m addicted to this pursuit. Turns out my passion for minimalism is helping my efforts, too. I stopped buying things that didn’t bring value. I raised my standards for what I allowed into my life (including people). I stopped wasting time dealing with so much “stuff” and opened up more space in not only my home, but my heart and mind.  

We downsized our mini-van to a Prius

We hypermile

Moved our cell phone carrier from AT&T to Ting.

I started donating and selling things. Big time.

One thing that helped me see how infrequently things were being used in my home was moving. We moved last year and it was an easy way for me to have a specific point of reference for the last time I used something. I looked at some things and thought, “I haven’t used this since way before we even moved!”  

For awhile I was donating everything. That was easy. I was so eager to be rid of the reminders of my pre-minimalist life. Fascinating that every time I took a car load of stuff, thinking I had purged myself of all I had to purge, I’d come home and a week later find another car-full of stuff to donate.

When I realized I was ready to free myself of more expensive things like Le Creuset pots (I really don’t need seven of them), my food processor which rarely gets used, my “extra” blender, my extensive knife collection (I really only use three of them regularly), just-in-case clothes/shoes/accessories I don’t wear, like ever, etc.

It turns out that I love having just the things I love. I don’t want or need things that I don’t love. What’s the point? 

I didn’t see it that way before though. I mean who does? If we all did we wouldn’t buy so much shit. 

It’s like that idea of “if I carry a bigger purse, I’ll carry more stuff, cuz, well, I can.” 

Admittedly, in the past when we sold stuff on Craig’s List, it was a “Greg” job. But, now, with so many things to sell (and mostly mine), it would be better if I did it. Shit. 

He promised that it’d be easy and very helpful if I took on the job.

Ok. I pulled on my big-girl-who-wants-to-be-financially-independent pants and dove into the land of Craig’s List. 

Yes. It was a bit of work, but once I got started it was a breeze. Inspiring and fun. 

I used a big dining room table for all of the things I was selling, which quickly overflowed because once I started, I didn’t want to stop. Fuck I had so much shit.
 

Just a few things I started gathering at first.

 
My steps for selling on Craig’s List:

1. Put everything in one room.

2. Take pictures of everything in nice lighting.

3. Get a cup of coffee because the real work is about to start.

4. Research, usually via Amazon.com, for details to use in ads. 

5. List everything on Craig’s list, one by one. 

6. Wait for the bites of interest.

The bites started right away. The fun began. People wanted to buy my shit things. Yeehaw!

I started meeting people to sell my stuff, collecting cash, and running straight to the ATM every time. 

Inch by inch of more space. Dollar by dollar into my bank account. Closer to financial independence. 

A cool thing happened through the process of selling on Craig’s List. I love seeing my things get new life with other people. Warms my heart. There were things that I was hesitant with which to part because of ego. I pushed forward though and sold, sold, sold, because I wanted the money, because I knew I wouldn’t buy those things if given the chance again today, and because I wasn’t even using them anyway! 

We’re headed toward financial independence. We have a plan. Empowering, feels good, feels safe, feels secure. In fact, it’s a relief. I feel lighter and happier than ever. It’s more happiness than any shopping would ever do, which isn’t happiness for me anymore. I value freedom. I ask myself… does EVERYTHING I HAVE serve a purpose that makes sense for my life today? 

Although sometimes it seems hard to let certain things go… once they’re gone I recalibrate and I’ve not missed one thing that I’ve let go whether through selling on Craig’s List or via donation. The freedom feels too damn great. 

The more something costs the more impact the following can hold true (here’s a popular passage from the book, Early Retirement Extreme, which I heard about on the MMM blog):

When you identify with an object, you’re defined by the object, then controlled by it, and ultimately owned by it. If you relate to your possessions, you’re owned by your stuff, and it will make many of your decisions for you. This trap is not only mental, but also physical.

I look forward to writing more posts about the things I’m doing to become financially independent. It’s one of the best adventures I’ve started. 

Early retirement, here we come.

And, yes, I talked Greg into selling the Mercedes sooner than later. :)

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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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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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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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