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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Less is More project: Week 0 - First impressions

MacLauren70, Flickr



January is upon us. I feel similar to when I stand behind the start line on race day: a little nervous. (What did I get myself into? Am I ready for this?) But mostly excited. Only one week of "challenge prep" and I'm already becoming aware of all the things I had been taking for granted.

Which takes me to one of my current preoccupations: privilege. It only took reading a handful of articles on minimalism/frugality/simplicity to realize that making the decision to not spend is actually a privilege. As Meg Hourihan, another proponent of buying less, put it nicely:  “I’m not comfortable with how easily I spend money and buy things on impulse, simply because I have the luxury to do so." 

Voluntary simplicity: the term says it. It's a choice.

If I wanted to, I could go shopping. (Plus, the bank just offered to increase my credit card limit. How ironic.) I have not been coerced into buying only the essential. At no point have I (and will I, unless something goes awfully wrong) worried that my children would not have enough to eat, or that I would not be able to make ends meet. I fully appreciate that. 

As soon as you evoke the benefits of a simpler life, such as working less in order to focus on what really matters (spending quality time with loved ones, reading, meditating, spending time in nature, exercising, etc.), you add another layer of privilege. I never want to forget that some people simply do not have that option:

"People at the bottom of the social ladder are pressed for time not to go earn high incomes but to juggle all the different balls they have to keep in the air at the same time (child care, commute, lack of health insurance and physical safety), to barely keep afloat on low incomes. The kind of consumption that [minimalists] say we can do without is that of those who are already privileged." (source: The Global Sociology Blog)

I am worried about that "privileged brat" side of myself. Is it going to pop out unexpectedly? Come the middle of the year, am I going to whine about the fact that I haven't been able to drink a decent wine for the past 6 months? If you catch me talking like that, kindly guide me back onto my path, will you?


WEEK 0 IN REVIEW

Temptations 


1) The ever-tempting pharmacy


As part of my plan to replace some personal hygiene products with a homemade alternative, I went to the pharmacy to do what I envisioned would be my last purchase of the year: a small bottle of lavender essential oil (I will explain in a later post what this is for). Even if it wasn't January yet, I was on a mission to not buy anything else. I figured it would be good practice. I also thought it would be easy. I was mistaken: pharmacies are filled with temptations! There's all the cosmetics, nice soaps and lotions of course (not that I need any). There's the food aisle (chocolates, anyone?) And worst of the worst, there's the Sales section. Oh god. I fell for one thing. I bought mascara (even if I still have some - maybe I got scared it's not a true need, and unconsciously wanted to stock up). Then I quickly rushed out of the pharmacy before something else caught my eye!

2) So much bling

I had to take my watch for a battery replacement. I figured I would be in and out the jewelry store. I had not occurred to me that this store sells Pandora charms. I happen to have a Pandora bracelet. I started browsing the selection. Luckily for me, the salesperson was really not helpful - may I say she was borderline unpleasant? (I know, I know, this is a stressful period for salespeople.) In any case, it kind of turned me off. I left the store with nothing new except that battery in my watch, as planned. Pandora charms hardly qualify as a need!

3) Sports fans beware

Ever the basketball enthusiasts, we went to see a game. Afterwards, I caught myself browsing the Rainmen t-shirts. Some were nice. The price was reasonable: taking $20 out of my wallet surely wouldn't make a huge difference in the long run. And I do want to support the team. Slight detail though: I definitely do not need any more t-shirts!!! I walked away. 

4) Free... until proven otherwise

As a nice, free activity for the whole family, we visited the new central library in Halifax. Once we were there, though, I remembered the Lululemon store right across the corner, and also felt tempted to go to a restaurant afterwards. But those thoughts only briefly crossed my mind: I busied myself with finding books, and when we were done, we went back home and made homemade pizza instead! (which was delicious, by the way) 


5) Accidents happen

One of my favorite pairs of pants ripped beyond repair. I had to throw them away. In "normal times", I would probably have gone shopping to find a similar pair as a replacement (I liked them a lot). But I won't, because I don't need any more pants than I already have. 

6) Gifts

My friend S offered me a shoe rack. Free stuff is hard to resist, but I said no, thank you. I did accept, however, the ruled paper and erasers she handed me: they will go toward next year's school supplies. I hope I did not violate a rule by taking those.

Money saved this week: between clothes, jewelry and other random items... more than I'm willing to admit. Luckily I don't hang out in those places on a regular basis.


Donations


A few times a year, I fill a bag of clothes and donate it to some charity (or friends with younger kids who appreciate hand-me-downs). In the past 2 years, prompted by some books I read as well as by a basement flood, I also got rid of a lot more things, e.g. baby gear/toys, duplicate kitchen supplies, some furniture. Whatever's left right now are things I have a harder time parting with, so this should be interesting. To be completely honest, however, there are things in this house that we took with us (a 1500 km trip) when we moved to Nova Scotia, 7½ years ago... that haven't been used once.  I think it's time to say farewell. Apart from a few baby sweaters that my grandmother knitted, that fit into one small box, and that I want my grandchildren to inherit, what else should I keep if it's not currently being used? Nothing!

In the past 2 weeks, I donated:

  • kitchen supplies (a variety of containers, a tea infuser, some towels/place mats/oven mitts)
  • recipe books
  • an iron
  • some clothes (including workout clothes - I could train every day in different ones and not have to do laundry for 2 weeks!)

Good riddance - the things that are in too bad a shape to even be donated: I got rid of children's footwear: 2 pairs of sneakers, 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of sandals and 1 pair of water shoes. I also got rid of the abovementioned ripped pants.


Observations

I realized that:

  • I own eight different tubs of lip balm: 2 in my bedroom, 2 in my office, and 4 in my purse. How on earth did that happen? Lip balms are an easy buy because they are not expensive. This year I will make sure I use them all before I buy any other.
  • I own four bottles of facial moisturizer, and as many of body lotion. In case you were wondering, no, my skin is not that dry. From now on I will wait until they are all empty before buying any more.
  • My kids are the only kids I know who did not receive any electronics for Christmas. 
  • I cannot afford to gain an ounce this year, lest I have to buy clothes in bigger sizes. 


Cogitations

I'm about to run out of chai tea. Is chai tea a need? I only have 1 pouch left. Will I have to assemble my own chai tea from now on?



What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? How did that make you feel? Please comment below! And...


Happy New Year to all! 



45 comments:

  1. Charles Dickens could have used you as a character in one of his stories, lol!

    Thank you for reaffirming that I really do practice voluntary simplicity.

    Why can't you sell your old stuff at a recycle shop? Or trade for stuff you need? Does that violate the rules?

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    1. I hope you don't have Scrooge in mind!!! ;-)

      I do and I will trade stuff (more to come on that later). As for selling, the effort usually isn't worth the money you get back. Time is money. :-) And donating to someone who really needs it makes me feel good.

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    2. I was thinking more like Tiny Tim's wing-woman :-)

      Happy NEW Year!!!

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  2. still moving
    still donating
    STILL FEELING SO SO MUCH LIGHTER.

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  3. I'd like to follow, but can't find where to sign up for emails. Can you add me? GreenGirlSuccess @ gmail

    Also, I totally know what you mean about privilege. I get frustrated that we take for granted and squander things like water and food. There are children in the world who can't go to school because they have to walk 6 miles to get water and we put water on our lawns. Crazy.

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    1. You are right. And the craziest thing is that we often don't see the relationship between the privileged's lifestyle and the less privileged's lifestyle. When in fact it's all part of a bigger system.

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  4. "I had to take my watch for a battery replacement. I figured I would be in and out the jewelry store." Ah, but doesn't your phone also give you the time...?

    Coming from a minimalist who has a Chap-Stick in every pair of pants, I every room, and on ever window ledge.

    I love that you are thinking in these terms. I truly believe the planet would function better, and more efficiently if everyone strived to live this way.

    Good one you, Julie!

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    1. Ha, Roy, but I do not have a smartphone! :-)

      Downsizing in the lip balm department should be our number one goal for 2015! ;-)

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  5. I like the idea of voluntary simplicity. :)
    Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2015!

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  6. Merci pour ces réflexions!! Très inspirant! J'ai beaucoup réfléchi à ton projet cette semaine. Pas tellement agit, cependant...

    Deux suggestions :

    1) Pour ton baume à lèvre, il est facile d'en faire maison à base de cire d'abeille. La recette fonctionne très bien et est très durable (http://www.wholeliving.com/134182/diy-lip-balm). Au lieu de partir de pastilles de cire (plus dispendieux), j'achète un bloc de cire que je râpe moi-même.

    2) C'est une très bonne idée de faire son Chai soi-même. Tu peux contrôler la qualité du thé et des épices. Surtout si tu achètes son thé en sachet, on ne sait jamais trop ce qu'il y a dedans!

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    1. Il est encore temps d'agir! :-) Merci infiniment pour tes trucs et astuces! J'apprécie vraiment!

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  7. This week I was busy with Christmas and New Year's preparation and had no time to sort things out to give away, but I do this regularly when my wardrobe is too full ! I never buy expensive stuff and don't care about brand marks, I buy as cheap as possible what I like and when I am fed up I give it away.
    Happy New Year !

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    1. That sounds like a good approach! I hope you come back to share other insights. :-)

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  8. Happy New Year.

    I think the New Year and possibly Spring are amongst the best times to donate unwanted items to charity shops etc. It's a good feeling to know that you may be helping others and also allowing you to gather your 'stuff' left in a more organised manner.

    We watched our budget this Christmas and I know many other family and friends did too. Yes, there were grandchildren who were given electronic goods this year, I'm caught in the middle ! We do live in a technological world - I guess we each have to decide which is more important. It is possible to budget / to cut down on excesses - we just have to want to do it.

    My New Year resolution is to do more walking, and one of the great things about walking is, - it's free.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Happy New Year! I wholeheartedly agree about the good feelings that come from donating.

      Enjoy walking! :-)

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  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I have added yours to my list because I am also trying to simplify and downsize. Happy New Years.

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope you come back and share your insights. I will certainly visit you again. :-)

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  10. i live very simply. sometimes too simply. :)

    thanks for stopping in today. blessings to you in the new year!

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    1. Best wishes to you as well! I don't know what "too simply" means... I would love that if you could explain! :-)

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  11. This will be a life changing year for you. Having spent time in India your words about having the privilege of choosing minimalism/simplicity ring very true. When excess commercialism/materialism is stripped away we can see the essentials of life more clearly.

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    1. Thank you for your insight, Karen! Please don't hesitate to come back and share more! :-)

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  12. I love the part about not being able to gain an ounce because you'd have to buy new clothes. What a great motivator. I wish I'd thought of that! Best Wishes on this project. I love it! :)

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    1. Haha, anything to stay in shape, right? :-)

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  13. I grew up with a mother who was a chronic spender. She allowed us to go bankrupt more times than I could count... and you know what, I wish I could say that prevented me from buying things I don't need, but it seemed that I followed in my mothers footsteps. Taking a step back to realize the difference between a need and a want is work. Even though my end goal is to never worry about money I don't want to get carried away with buying a dozen lip balms when I continue to only use one brand.

    Latest TryUmph Post...Suck it Up, Buttercup

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    1. Unfortunately a lot of bad habits get passed down from generation to generation. But you are right: the best way to fight back our "inherited tendencies" is to take a step back and assessing what's really going on. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  14. Hi, I'm River. I saw your name in Andrew's comments and decided to pop on over, new reading material is always welcome. I'm one of those who scrimped and juggled to make ends meet; it's easier now I am old and all the kids are long gone from home.
    Anyway, re the mascara, "got scared it's not a true need", you're right, it isn't a true need, but there's a borderline area here, if mascara is necessary to the way you get through your days, (have you tried going without?) then by all means buy and use, but only buy one and use it until gone. Same with the Chai Tea. NOT a true need, but if you can't get through your days without it, then buy it until you learn to assemble your own home made supply. Which probably isn't all that hard.
    Good luck with your challenge.

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    1. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting! I will definitely write a post about whether cosmetics are a need or not, and how to manage our use of them. :-)

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  15. Have just read some of the other comments. You do not need a smartphone to give you the time. I have an eight year old flip phone which tells me the time. I also have a watch, since I rarely bother to look at my phone, sometimes not even taking it with me when I go out.

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  16. Hubby and I love a simple life, especially now since I recently retired.. We are downsizing and I am donating a lot of my work clothes.. I enjoyed reading your post. I wish you a happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you for commenting! It's inspiring to see that other people are choosing the simple way of life. :-)

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  17. I never thought of my not spending money on something as a privilege. Maybe it's because I was raised on the right side of the tracks but far below the poverty line, that I have learned to purchase the needs first, and if I have funds available for a yet-to-come-need, I'll buy it now because I might not have the funds later.
    Financially speaking, my life is much easier now. But I still cling to that mindset. So often, I've been able to purchase wants and just didn't because I was too afraid of not having enough to meet a real; need later.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that insight, Virginia. Our upbringing surely influences the way we view and manage money later on.

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  18. Thank you for your visit to me. I LOVE this post and wrestle with privilege myself. I am often shamed that people die for lack of clean water and we flush our toilets with it. People die from lack of food - and I throw food out. You are making me think it is time to ACT on those feelings. Good luck with your journey, as I start on one of my own.

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    1. You are so right about all that! Acting on it is the only way things will change. Good luck with your project!

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  19. I've seen some really great recipes for Chai tea - I'm actually planning to make a batch myself because it is one of my winter pleasures!!!
    I don't think you broke a rule by taking the school supplies - things like that will always be necessary!!!
    My first step is to (slowly) start to eliminate stuff.
    And, my boys did not receive any electronics for Christmas either:)

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    1. Oh, that sounds amazing! I think I will Google those recipes! :-)
      We sound like we have similar parenting values... ;-)

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  20. Plus je réfléchis, plus ton projet confronte mes valeurs et me fait voir les côtés moins jolis de mon mode de vie. Cette question d'avoir le prévilège de vivre simplement/frugalement m'a frappée comme une claque en pleine face!

    Petite anecdote reliée à ça, avant Noël je magasinais au "Fou du dollard" pour trouver des surprises de bas de Noël et je me suis passée la réflexion que des travailleurs exploités chinois devaient travailler des heures de fous à des salaires de misère pour produire tous ces produits médiocres et ridicules que bien souvent les enfants n'utiliseront pas 5 minutes (et je suis généreuse). Idem pour tous les cossins de la Reine des Neiges, d'Hello Kitty et autres. Je suis sortie presque en courant du magasin!

    Quant on réfléchit à ça, on perd très vite l'envie de magasiner!

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    1. J'adore tes commentaires! Ils ajoutent en information et en sagesse aux sujets que j'aborde. Merci! :-)

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