Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 51 - Final Post for 2015

Moyan Brenn, Flickr

- Do you need to work tonight?
- To put food on the table and clothes on our back, no. To go to restaurants and keep designer sneakers in the closet, yes. 

Annual report!

The Less is More project is coming to an end. What are the main observations, lessons and conclusions to gather from a year of buying only the essential?

First and foremost, I am not tired of this project. I am not looking forward to the "right to buy". I am not planning to go shopping. I do not plan to revert to my old ways in the new year. I want to make this new frugal practice a lifelong habit. I will keep decluttering, consuming less, and appreciating what I already have.


Because it feels good. 

It feels good to live in a decluttered space, to know where everything is, to know that everything you own has a purpose.

It feels good to really, genuinely appreciate everything you have.

It feels good to see ads or go into a store and not feel pressured to buy. 

It feels good to be completely unconcerned with keeping up with the Joneses.

It feels good to share (by donating or regifting).

It feels good to know that your ecological footprint is lower.

It feels good to use your time, energy and money for what really matters.

To give a full picture of the situation, I feel it's my responsibility to add that it also feels good to know you have a choice. The main difference between voluntary simplicity and actual poverty is that the former allows you to acquire the things you need when you need them, whereas in poverty, even the basics elude you. Someone I care for deeply is currently struggling to keep a roof over their head, and food on their table. That reality is very real for many people, even in a "rich" country like Canada. 

For those of us who aren't struggling, the least we can do (apart from donating time, food, objects or money, of course) is to be grateful for what we have, and mindful of what we do with it. Money and other material resources aren't an end, they are a means. Let us never forget that.

Speaking of mindfulness...

Mindfulness will be the focus of my 2016 project. Mindfulness might be the key to peace, love, and well-being. Are you willing to give mindfulness a chance?

I will now allow myself a well-deserved break for the last ten days of 2015, and will be back in January full of new ideas to share! Happy End of Year to all, and see you in 2016!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 50 - Minimalism explained to children

Ann Jutatip, Flickr

A child of mine, the "stylish" one, was complaining once again that she does not have enough clothes, or that too many of them are hand-me-downs from her sister. A few years ago, the "clothes question" had become so annoying (read: a tantrum every morning when it was time to get dressed) that we had eventually removed all clothes from her bedroom (which was a lot, as both her dresser and closet were bursting at the seams), and resolved to pick her daily outfit ourselves, even if that went against my philosophy of autonomy. That strategy had proved successful: presented with no choice at all, said child would quietly comply and put on whatever we had picked for her. What she needed was not more choice (despite all her claims) - what she needed was less choice. 

She was not the first nor the last person to feel overwhelmed in such a situation: faced with too many options, human beings have a harder time making choices, and can even experience anxiety.

Eventually, her clothes went back to her room, as she had grown older and more mature, and was now able to chose her daily outfit in all serenity. But recently, she paid us a nice nostalgic revisiting of the good old times with a new "clothes crisis". 

Unfortunately for her, she did not know (or did not remember) who she was dealing with. Faced with her tantrum, I did not get upset. I did not ignore her complaints either. No. I did much "worst": I organized a little crash course on psychology, social inequality and environmental sustainability... just for her.

When dealing with someone who does not quite understand something, and especially when they exhibit a defensive or even hostile attitude, I like to begin with questions. And so I started with this one:

What are some of the things that we sometimes refuse to buy for you, that you would like to have?

She was quick to find examples:

  • Electronics
  • Junk food
  • Candy
  • More clothes
  • More toys

My second question quickly followed: 

And why is that? Why do we say no to those things on a regular basis?

The answer to this was harder for her to formulate (she did mention the fact that junk food is "not good for you"). It was now my turn to explain why we are being such cruel parents:

1) Your own well-being. Doctors and psychologists agree that owning and using electronics regularly is not good for children. The same is obviously true for eating junk food and candy. As for extra clothes and toys, we know that owning too many things does not make a person happier; it can even make you more miserable.

2) Other people's well-being. Who makes the clothes, toys, and electronics you want? Poor, underpaid, underage people who work in difficult, often dangerous, settings. Do we want to support that? It was easy to illustrate my point. I showed her this video of a 9 year-old girl who works 12-hour shifts in a sweatshop in Bangladesh. Putting things in perspective, you said?

3) The planet's well-being. Every time an object is made, it creates pollution. The less we buy, the less objects will be made, and the less pollution will be created.

I truly believe in children's ability to understand the underlying reasons for choices and actions; because of that, I will keep explaining things. Who knows what the next topic will be?


2015 is coming to an end, and people ask me what I am most impatient to buy once the project is over. My answer is simple: nothing at all. I do not crave any more belongings. A year was more than enough to find detachment from the material sphere. More than any desire to start shopping again, I have a desire to stay on the minimalist path, for I have discovered the well-being that accompanies it.


Project 2016 is in the making!  Are you ready to make real changes in your life? Are you tired of new year resolutions that die after just two weeks? I might have a solution for you. Stay tuned, and to make sure you don't miss anything...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 49 - When being frugal isn't an option

David Blackwell, Flickr

"No matter how rich you get, shit goes wrong." 
(Ex Machina)

When it comes to saving money, your health, the planet, or all of the above, having options might not be conducive to making progress. Feeling constrained, however, is a sure way to get quick results. For example:

Using water parsimoniously is tricky on a daily basis, but much easier when the septic pump has failed and anything you flush down could back up in the basement.

Putting money aside for contingencies is tricky, but when above mentioned septic pump fails, and the total invoice for replacing it (plus emptying the septic tank, while we're at it) approaches $2000 that you hadn't planned on spending (right before Christmas, makes me merry), you're pretty darn happy you did have money put aside for such unforeseen events, and your motivation to keep putting money aside in the future goes up a notch.

As for the question of whether this painful expense is a need, I challenge anyone to argue that pumping our family's excreted substances out of the house qualifies as a frivolous desire.

Always a positive thinker, I can only rejoice that those troubles happened in a time when the ground is not completely frozen and covered in feet of snow yet, and that nothing actually backed up in the basement (we caught it in time).


Apart from wasting my hard-earned money on shitty matters (literally), I've been reading "Money Changes Everything", a collection of first person accounts, by various established writers, on their relationship with money. Reading that book made me realize (if I wasn't previously aware of it) that the amount of money we are granted at birth (i.e. our socioeconomic status or, more precisely, that of our parents) has an immense impact on the way we lead our lives in general, and on our relationship with money in particular. For example, studies have shown that rich people, not the poor, tend to plan long-term when it comes to finances - not because they have to, but simply because they can. A surprising result, but it does make sense: for the poor, planning long-term would be useless at best, heart-breaking at worst: 

"Working for minimum wage means that making a long-term budget is an exercise in wishful thinking. You just have however much money you have until you run out, and you pay whatever bill is most overdue first." (Linda Tirado, The Guardian)

What is certain is that it is hard to understand the poor if you've always been rich, just as it is hard to understand the rich if you've always been poor. 

Who, in our consumerist society, lives frugally? The poor, out of sheer necessity? The middle class, who realize after some years in the workforce that the only way they will be able to afford some real luxury is to make sacrifices in other areas? The rich, out of some entertaining challenge they set for themselves in order to make their lives more interesting?

"Is minimalism a first world problem"? 


Project 2016 is in the making!  Are you ready to make real changes in your life? Are you tired of new year resolutions that die after just two weeks? I might have a solution for you. Stay tuned, and to make sure you don't miss anything...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!