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The Minimalists

Minimizing Debt

I recently listened to The Minimalists’ Podcast episode about money. It inspired me to review my thoughts and plans about money in my life and revise my current plans.

Day 178: Almost Full by Tom Small from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Day 178: Almost Full by Tom Small from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Minimalists say, and I agree, “There is no such thing as good debt.” I took on a considerable loan when I bought my condo in 2014. I regularly pay more than my mortgage payment to pay off my loan faster. After listening to this podcast, I was inspired to play around with an online early mortgage payoff calculator. It showed me that I can pay off my loan significantly faster and avoid paying a substantial amount of interest by paying a bit more than I currently am each month.

As a minimalist, my overhead expenses each month are not that high. I don’t mind foregoing some temporary luxuries if it means saving over $25,000 in the long run.

Listening to this episode also made me revisit some of my other financial goals for the year – like fully funding my retirement account. I usually wait until the end of the year to do this, but there’s no reason to delay if I can do it earlier.

To date, my savings have been part of my personal and business checking accounts; however, after revisiting my financial goals, I want to open a separate savings account as well. This will be an account to deposit money that is “spoken for,” like my quarterly estimated taxes, charitable giving, retirement, as well as building a “rainy day fund” that contains at least six months worth of expenses. This can also be the account I use to set aside funds to pay off my mortgage faster and to save up for big purchases and travel.

Separating out my savings will make it easier to see how much I can save month-to-month and how much I really need to fund my life and run my business.

If you want to know more about my experience with minimalism, I suggest you read about the “packing party” I did in 2014 and got rid of everything that no longer added value to my life.

Spring Cleaning – Decluttering Paper Again

As a minimalist, I think I’ve done a good job of eliminating the stuff from my life that doesn’t add any value to it. Instead, I try to surround myself with things that make me more efficient and comfortable and I put more energy towards experiences than acquiring tangible stuff. However, my Achilles heel when it comes to being a minimalist, is paper clutter.

Buried Again by projectbamboo from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Buried Again by projectbamboo from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

There is a lot of paper in my life. I admit I kill lots of trees because I have to write down ideas in order to process them, and I’m that person who prints off stuff at work and writes notes on it by hand. It’s just how I work best. I understand it. I accept it. But it also generates a lot of paper clutter around me. And one of the things that makes me more anxious and less clearheaded, is having a cluttered workspace and a cluttered home. So then all my paper clutter ends up in piles  around the house and the office, and it takes me months to deal with it. I also have to deal with other paper clutter like receipts I have to save for tax purposes and business cards I get at events. I have systems for dealing with these things, but I suck at implementing them on an ongoing basis.

I’ve done a minimalism project before around my paper clutter – I challenge myself to deal with every new piece of paper in my life within 24 hours. This time, for the month of March, I am going to use The Minimalism Game, invented by The Minimalists, to deal with the paper clutter in my home.

The game is very simple and lasts one month. On the first day, you eliminate one item. On the second day you eliminate 2 items. Whatever day you are on, that’s how many things you have to eliminate from your life, so on the 31st, I will have to eliminate 31 items. The amount you have to remove each day is manageable (especially since I’ll be minimizing paper), but in aggregate, it has a big impact. If I follow the rules of the game, I will eliminate 496 items of paper during the month of March. (If I run out of paper to declutter (yay me!) I’ll move on to decluttering my inboxes.)

I have 2 caveats for myself in regards to playing The Minimalism Game:

  1. The game does not apply to new paper entering my life. At the end of each day, I have to have a net loss based on however many items I have to eliminate that day. So if I get 5 pieces of mail on the first day, I have to eliminate 6 items to have a net loss of 1 for the day.
  2. I am allowed to work ahead. The goal is to eliminate 496 items over the course of the month. If I get on a role and eliminate 50 items on day 1, I only have to eliminate 446 more items during the rest of the month. This particularly makes sense for me because I will be traveling for a few days in March. I need to be able to work ahead were play catch up as needed, but I hope, for the most part, that I’m all eliminating paper clutter almost every day. The game is merely a guide.

You are welcome to play The Minimalism Game with me. It’s a great way to get started with minimalism if you want to decrease the excess clutter in your life. My goal isn’t just to make my house look cleaner, but also help me feel less anxious and more creative as a result of having a space that is more conducive for my needs.

Thoughts about Fashion and Minimalism

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter - Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter – Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

About a month ago, a friend asked me to comment on Joshua Becker’s post 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. This article brings up a lot of good points – if you have a personal uniform (i.e., Steve Jobs and his turtleneck and Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt), you save time and energy getting dressed in the morning. And you save money by not having an expansive wardrobe.

It appears the capsule wardrobe is catching on – a wardrobe of interchangeable pieces. Some people who are trying to be more minimalistic with their wardrobe do Project 333 – wearing a wardrobe that consists of 33 pieces for a 3-month period. I understand the concept of these ideas, but they’ve never appealed to me.

Being a minimalist has never been about limiting myself to owning a specific number of items but limiting myself to possessions that add value to my life. When it comes to the role of fashion in my life, I love this quote from Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists:

Now nearly everything I own is my favorite thing. All my clothes are my favorite clothes. All my furniture is my favorite furniture. All my possessions are my favorite possessions—all of which I enjoy every day of my life.

I love wearing clothes that make me feel good – soft fabrics, comfortable cuts, and items that make me feel beautiful. If I’m not seeing clients, my everyday outfit tends to consist of jeans, a t-shirt, comfortable shoes, and a hoodie or cardigan if it’s chilly. When I’m speaking, I’ll trade in my hoodie for a blazer. If I’m seeing clients, I may take my outfit up a notch to dress pants, a button-down shirt, a tank top, and dress shoes.

Here are two of the things I do to make sure I’m mostly keeping the clothes I love:

1. The Hanger Flip. At the beginning of the year, I reverse all the hangers in my closet. When I put a garment away after wearing it, I flip the hanger back to the proper direction. After a few weeks, I can see what garments I’m wearing the most. By fall, I can usually tell what I should get rid of because I can see what I haven’t worn through the previous warm and cold seasons.

2. Select the Day’s Outfit in a Vacuum. I don’t open a drawer or step into my closet in the morning until I’ve decided what I want to wear. I don’t use visual cues but rather my knowledge of my wardrobe and that day’s calendar to select my outfit. It forces me to go with my gut feeling about what I really want to wear instead of getting lost considering all the possibilities.

The size of my wardrobe has diminished substantially over the last few years and I love it. (There’s no reason to own 15 sweaters when I consistently wear only 4 of them.) I love that my wardrobe is simple and filled with mostly classic pieces and awesome t-shirts. It makes getting dressed every day so much easier. I know that everything I own fits, serves a purpose, and feels good against my sensitive skin.

Day 9/90 – WordTasting Tour

Day 9 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? The WordTasting Tour stop at Changing Hands featuring Colin Wright, Josh Wagner, Skye Steele, and Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists!

Two Pasty-Pale Minimalists - with Joshua Fields Millburn

Two Pasty-Pale Minimalists – with Joshua Fields Millburn

I became familiar with The Minimalists at the beginning of my journey with minimalism. I came away from their talk at SXSW buzzing with ideas for de-cluttering my life. I saw them again during their tour following the release of Everything That Remains, which inspired me even more. I also ripped off Ryan Nicodemus’ packing party idea when I moved to my new home.

The WordTasting Tour was a fantastic experience to connect with other minimalists and aspiring minimalists and to meet others in the minimalist community – like Colin Wright. He moves to a new country every 4 months and lives like a local to learn new cultures and see the world from a different perspective. Each of these authors is an incredible wordsmith, and they were accompanied and complemented by Skye Steele’s music. This guy is wicked talented.

With Skye Steele

With Skye Steele

I walked away from this event inspired, not only to be more dedicated to minimalism (remembering that things are just tools and focusing on the activities that add value to my life and allow me to add value to others’ lives) but also to my writing. Joshua Fields Millburn has an eloquent saying: “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.” But I think the most profound thing I heard at this event came from a poem by Josh Wagner: “Shut your mouth and scream.” As a writer, this line spoke to me. It reminded me to quit dicking around and do what I need to do, say what I need to say.

In case you missed it: Day 8 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I almost met The Namby Pamby!

Closet Clean-Out 2015

Glimpse into part of my Closet - January 31, 2015

Glimpse into part of my Closet – January 31, 2015

For anyone who has been following my minimalism project, you know I just got rid of 2 boxes of clothes during my “packing party,” which was inspired by Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. Even so, it’s a new year and every garment is potentially on the chopping block again.

For me, minimalism is about getting rid of the things that don’t add value to my life. It is a constant process. Just because an item added value to my life last year, it doesn’t guarantee that it adds value to my life today. And if that’s the case, and that item should find a new home where it will be useful again.

On January 1st, I went into my closet and flipped every hanger so instead of curling towards the wall, each hanger was curled toward the center of the room. When I wear a garment and it returns to the closet, the hanger will be flipped back to the traditional position. I also took each pair of my shoes and flipped them so the toes were pointing towards the room rather than towards the wall. When I where a pair of shoes for the first time, I flipped them around when I put them away. It takes only a few minutes to flip everything around, and by using the system, I can see at a glance what garments and shoes I have and haven’t worn this year.

Historically, when I’ve done an annual wardrobe clean-out, it also included a checklist for garments that are folded like sweaters, workout gear, and T-shirts. I decided not to do that this year but instead will keep I mental checklist of what I have worn. The items that I don’t wear often will end up at the bottom of the piles and back of the drawers and I’ll decide by the end of the year if anything would be better off being donated to charity.

I got rid of a lot of clothes during my “packing party.” As a result, I seem to enjoy the clothes I have that much more and it appears I’ve flipped a lot more hangers to date then I did last year. It’s a very rare that I find myself rediscovering a garment in my wardrobe because I forgot that I owned it. It definitely makes me happier knowing that the things that I have actually help me be more comfortable and add value to my life.

I’ve considered trying the capsule wardrobe – creating a 3-month wardrobe based on mixing and matchng 24-33 garments. That might be something fun to try when I get back from all my spring travels.

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 10.5 – Finished the Packing Party!

End of the Packing Party: Boxes for Charity, December 21, 2014

End of the Packing Party: Boxes for Charity, December 21, 2014

Put a fork in me. I’m done! My packing party is over.

In the last 72 days, I moved to a new condo and left all my things in boxes and suitcases until I needed them. During the last month, I went through each box and bag and decided what remaining things would “survive” and what would be donated to charity. I finished the last box this morning.

Last week I had three boxes and a few clothing items in my suitcase to go. Many of the books survived because they are resources I’ll use at work, like my Blue Book for legal citations but most of them are in a box with a 1-year limit to read and/or donate them to charity. All of my remaining clothing items survived, mainly because they’re professional clothes and I’m joining a law firm next year. Besides, I do a systematic annual closet clean-out which will show me what I am and am not wearing.

There is a stack of 9 boxes and a few other items that will donated to charity. I had 9 boxes of things to give away after I did my big minimalism project in 2013 and got rid of a bunch of stuff before I moved. This process really showed me how much stuff I don’t use and what types of things I keep around “just in case.” I need very little to be comfortable. And having an uncluttered home helps me feel calm and focused on what matters.

So what’s next?

  • The humane society will be picking up the charity boxes to sell my stuff at their thrift store.
  • I’m moving into my new office in January so the baby gate, office dog bed, office boxes, and many of my framed wall hangings (i.e., diplomas) will be going there.
  • I ordered an oversized reading chair for my home office and a dining set. They’ll be delivered after the holiday. I’m still considering getting a swivel chair to put next to the couch, but I want to see how the condo feels once the boxes are gone and the furniture arrives first.
  • I want to hire my handy man to install a big 4’x6’ white board in my home office and a wall or ceiling-mounted bike rack to get my bike more out of the way.

Like I said last week, minimalism is an ongoing to process of putting my time, energy, and money into things that add value to my life and clearing out the things that don’t. I’m excited to see how I feel and if anything shifts once all the boxes are gone and the furniture has been delivered.

Here’s how the place looks now. I’ll shoot another video after the next furniture delivery.

Thank you to Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists for inspiring me to do my own packing party. I enjoyed reading about your journey in Joshua Field Millburn’s book, Everything That Remains. I look forward to seeing the documentary about minimalism and your book tour.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 8
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 9

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 8

These are the empty boxes & stuff that's going to charity - December 7, 2014

These are the empty boxes & stuff that’s going to charity – December 7, 2014

I am just over 8 weeks into my variation of Ryan Nicodemus’(of The Minimalists) “packing party.” I’ve been diligent during the last week about making a concerted effort to clean out my minimalism boxes, so most of what I’ve unpacked lately are items that are being donated to charity or surviving the final clean-out. There are still instances where I unpack things because I need them that day – like when I needed some of my fancy things to go to Julia’s wedding, my rubber gloves for dying my hair, and my black morphsuit to perform in Patrick’s piano concert as the unknown faceless person. I’m still documenting everything in my notebook.

I still have 10 boxes left in my minimalism pile and none of them are full. The interesting thing is I’ve made a lot of progress in the last week but it doesn’t seem like I have that much more stuff in my condo. I have 7 boxes of stuff to go to charity and more 6 empty boxes stacked up in my office. I went through one of my minimalism boxes on camera last weekend if you’re interested in hearing the monologue that goes through my head when I’m examining my stuff. (Warning: It was a full box and it took 19 minutes for me to sort through it – but it’s pretty interesting if this process intrigues you.)

There is a box of books in the minimalism pile. I’ve already pulled out the ones I know I want to keep and I put the ones that add no value to my life in the charity pile. There are at least a dozen books in the minimalism pile that I’ve never read but I feel I should read. Most of them are about investing or running a law practice. They’ve all come highly recommended, but it hasn’t been a priority to read them. I’m considering putting them in a stack in my room and giving myself until the end of 2015 to read them. There are so many books in general that I want to read; it’s hard to make it a priority to get to them all.

Overall I’m pleased with the progress I’m making with the final cleanout. I want to be as productive this week with going through my boxes and possibly making arrangements to have the charity boxes picked up so I can make space for what’s really supposed to go in the corner where I’ve stored them – an extra large plushy armchair that I can curl up and read in.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7

I'll be going through these boxes by the end of the month.

I’ll be going through these boxes by the end of the month.

I am just over 7 weeks into my variation of Ryan Nicodemus’(of The Minimalists) “packing party.” I still have my notebook where I track what I unpack and get rid of each day, but at this point it seems almost redundant to post the day-by-day list of what I’m using, unpacking, and donating to charity. If you’re really interested in seeing the daily lists, let me know.

I finally went a day where I didn’t unpack anything because I needed it. However, I’m unpacking things if I know they’re going to survive the final cleanout and adding them to the charity pile the moment I know that an item is not going to survive, so even on that day where I didn’t “unpack” anything, items still came out of the boxes. But in case you are wondering, that fateful day was Day 49.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m using this minimalism project as a way to avoid fully settling into my condo. So I’m using this month to do the final cleanout. I’m trying to go through a box a day and at least unpack the things that I know for sure are going to survive the final cleanout. If I find an item that I’ve forgotten that I had, that’s a pretty good indicator that that item can be added to the charity pile. If it wasn’t important enough to remember, it’s probably not important enough to keep. Also, as soon as my brain has placed an item in a particular place in my condo, I try to unpack it, even if it’s an item that someone might consider frivolous like a flower vase or a stuffed animal.

Charity boxes 12-2-2014

Four full boxes going to charity! More to be added I’m sure.

My goal by the end of this month is to have all the minimalism boxes out of the condo and to have at least ordered the final pieces of furniture that I want, which include a dining set, armchairs for the living room and office, a white board for my office, and a floor lamp for my office. I might end up with more furniture than what other minimalists might have, and I’m OK with that. Minimalism isn’t about having less than what others have, and using it like a badge of honor. It’s about having things in my life that give me value without having the things that don’t. For me, it’s important to have a home that is cozy, inviting, and comfortable so I’m diligent about selecting furniture and fabrics that are comforting.

I’ll keep shooting videos of this project, and I might start doing some where I open the remaining minimalism boxes and to talk about what will survive the final cleanout, what definitely won’t survive, and to talk about the uncertainty I have about whether I should or shouldn’t keep an item. One thing I know that has been handy in the past is Joshua Fields Millburn’s 20/20 rule which he talks about in his book Everything That Remains. His suggestion is that it shouldn’t be a big deal to get rid of something if it takes less than 20 minutes and less than $20 to replace.

I’m looking forward to having this portion of my minimalism project complete and sharing the journey with you.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6

Minimalism in 90 Days Update – What was Unpacked During Week 6

This suitcase was overflowing with clothes a week ago.

This suitcase was overflowing with clothes a week ago.

I am over six weeks into my variation of Ryan Nicodemus’(of The Minimalists) “packing party” and I have yet to go a day without unpacking something. Every time I think I’m going to have a day where I don’t unpack anything I’ll want to watch a DVD I haven’t unpacked or I’ll need a pair of socks – usually something mundane.

It’s started to get colder in Phoenix so I’ve started unpacking cold weather linens and clothes. I’m also being more diligent about unpacking things I know (and I mean really know) I’ll need or want or getting rid of things I know won’t survive the final clean-out.

Here’s what I unpacked during the last week:

Day 36

  • DVD
  • Tall socks and t-shirt
  • Japanese figurine and somersault girl figurines
  • Extra keys
  • Spare change
  • Mug

Day 37

  • Fish bowl
  • Checkbook

Day 38

  • Sweater, slippers, cold weather running shirts, and running tights
  • Brown handbag
  • Rosie the basset hound saved 3 tennis balls from the charity pile

Day 39

Day 40

  • Lipstick
  • DVD

Day 41

  • Thermometer (I have to remember that I don’t have a fever, I have cold hands)
  • Glass cups

Day 42

  • DVD

Items set aside for charity this week: 13 hangers, banker box full of clothes, big blue vase, dog brush, dog toys, 5-pound dumbbells, and plastic party cups.

In terms of the number of boxes and suitcases in the minimalism pile, not much has changed, but the volume of stuff in each one is steadily dropping. I found a few items in the that I inherited from my grandmother in my things that have basically become dust collectors there are no reasons, not even sentimental ones, for me to keep them anymore. So I will be passing them along to various family members when we get together for Thanksgiving.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5

Minimalism in 90 Days Update – What was Unpacked During Week 5

I still have a suitcase filled with clothes I haven't worn yet.

I still have a suitcase filled with clothes I haven’t worn yet.

I am over a month into my variation of Ryan Nicodemus’(of The Minimalists) “packing party” and I have yet to go a day without unpacking something. On most days I unpack only a few items. I expect that day will come soon, but I also expect days where I’ll be unpacking a lot more. I’m starting to think about what items are going to survive the final clean out even if I don’t use them on a regular basis – like the keys to my parents’ house in California or the Ziploc back of spare change I haven’t unpacked yet. If I think of those items and I know they’re going to be spared, then I’ll unpack them. Likewise, the moment I know an item isn’t going to survive the final clean out, it will go into the pile of things to be donated to charity.

Here’s what I unpacked during the last week:

Day 29

  • Crockpot and pan
  • DVD

Day 30

  • DVD
  • Towel set
  • Handout and magnets (to attach it to the fridge)

Day 31

  • Sweatshirt (It’s finally cold enough that I want a sweatshirt instead of a zippy to walk Rosie in the morning)

Day 32

  • Antibiotic ointment
  • DVD
  • Replacement tube of Rosie’s toothpaste (I have several replacements for toiletries I currently use that are still in a box. I might unpack all of those because they will be used. Don’t worry – I only have 1 replacement for each item at most. I’m not like an extreme couponer who has 100 bottles of shampoo.)

Day 33

  • Dress
  • Cassette

Day 34

  • Music stand and sheet music
  • Donation to charity: unused travel size toiletries

Day 35

  • Aztec sun (I’m storing this on the wall for now)
  • Birthday card for brother-in-law (bought it during Independents Week sale)
  • Stage manager bag of pens, highlighters, velcro, and safety pins (to work at Ignite Phoenix event)
  • Vinyl pants, FMBs, and pasties (to wear at Ignite Phoenix event)
  • Mascara, foundation, lip liner, eyeliner, shimmer powder, and lipstick case
  • KT Tape (for my sore leg), alcohol pads, and knee socks (to sleep in my KT Tape)
  • Music binder

The list on this post goes through last Friday, but I usually shoot the weekly video on Sunday so I’ll be talking about a few things that you won’t see on the what-I-unpacked list until next week. I’m definitely trying to treat my condo more and more like a home. I don’t want a lot a knick knacks – just a few sentimental items that make me smile.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4