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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 9 - What I have learned in 2 months

kern.justin, Flickr

"Simplicity is not about deprivation. Simplicity is about greater appreciation for things that really matter." (Becoming Minimalist)

As it was to be expected, in the midst of a lot of enthusiasm, this project has also generated a little bit of healthy skepticism. Some readers have questioned the whys, the hows, and the scope of this project. 

I am fine with that reaction. Such a project is bound to provoke debate! You will elicit similar reactions if you become a vegetarian, train for a marathon, or make any other uncommon choice. (Click here for a food and fitness-related example.)

In addition to referring you back to my first post of the project, which offers some insight as to why I embarked on it in the first place (click here), today I want to revisit the various reasons why people are drawn to minimalism: 

Clutter: feeling overwhelmed by the amount and/or size of the stuff we own, including real estate, vehicles, and objects of all types

Debt: (self-explanatory)

Social/environmental awareness: the realization that our day to day lifestyle has a significant, harmful impact on both the planet in general and its inhabitants in particular

Lack of purpose/meaningfulness: feeling that our life is a whirlwind of acquiring money (through work) and spending money (through shopping and entertainment) without much consideration for what really "speaks" to us, such as relationships we cherish and hobbies we are passionate about

Stress: created by some or all of the above

In my case, the main reason I embarked on this project was to develop mindfulness and intentionality. I wanted to regain full consciousness of what I spend my time, energy, space and money on. I wanted to determine whether it fits my values and priorities and whether it is conducive to my (and others') well-being. 

I do not want to be the automaton of consumerism.

If the planet was doing just fine, and if all humans were treated fairly, I would still embark on this project.

If I had all the space in the world, I would still embark on this project. (As of now I am realizing that my house is indeed too big for my needs, and offers too much storage.)

If I was extremely wealthy, I would still embark on this project. Saving money, as I have said before, is NOT the main goal of this project. (Interestingly, some well-intentioned readers have been kindly suggesting ways for me to acquire stuff at a good price. I appreciate, and thank you, but this is not why I'm doing it.)

It is once I had more that I became interested in having less. 

Sometimes you have to fulfill the "material dream" to realize its absurdity:

  • I have noticed that accumulating stuff does not make me happier (it actually can make me LESS happy).
  • I have noticed that the high I get from acquiring stuff does not last.
  • I have noticed that I am perfectly content with very little (in situations such as wilderness camping, for example).
  • I have noticed that sometimes, I'd rather work a little bit less, have a little bit less money... and gain a little bit more time instead.
  • I have realized that we cannot keep on blaming "others" for the state of the planet: each of us has to make some changes. We are not big companies. But we can vote with our wallet, and force big companies to revisit their approaches.

I don't think my approach quite qualifies as ascetic. I still own way more than one outfit, one bowl and one cot. I still value pleasure (and, in some instances, I still want to indulge in luxury). For the most part, I think I am an adept of Epicureanism in its most classical sense: I want to avoid pain and emotional disturbance; the pursuit of pleasure is fine as long as it respects the criterion of moderation.

When you allow yourself treats in moderation, you avoid potential noxious side effects (think overspending, overeating, overdrinking and the like) and you maximize the enjoyment (occasional treats are more enjoyable that constant, mindless indulgences). 

As a dietitian once told me: there is nothing wrong with having chocolate ice cream once in a while. But if you are going to do it, make sure you fully appreciate it: sit down, take your time, focus on the taste and texture. Do nothing else. Give it your full attention.

I have a feeling that too often, we are on autopilot: we consume things that don't really provide us with significant enjoyment. If we become aware of that, we will be able to refocus our resources (again, in time, energy, space and money) on the things that we truly, highly enjoy, while cutting down on the things that don't make such a positive difference in our lives.



Saturday morning, I get a phone call. It's D. He's been running some errands, has some extra time ahead of him before R's next basketball game, and wants to know if there's anything else I need. "I don't think so", I say. "I already gave you my little list" (which consisted of a receipt book for my business, and a new phone because ours, after years of loyal service, just died). I am pretty sure we don't need anything else. Yet I hesitate. Here I am trying to come up with something we might "need". Enough already! We don't need anything at all.

Donations (good riddance)

Have you seen the link to "Let's Play a Minimalism Game" I posted on HappinessSavouredHot' Facebook page? If you are a "beginner", this is a superb ideas by The Minimalists to get you started on decluttering. The idea is to get rid of one item on the first of the month, two items on the second, three items on the third, and so on. March is a great month to go for it as it has 31 days!!! If you follow the plan, by the end of this month you should be 496 items lighter (or an average of 16 discarded items per day). Scary? For sure. Useful? You bet.

This week I got rid of:

a very old T-shirt, a couple of pens that don't work, a dozen of small toys that my kids don't use, and another pile of books.


Turns out that baking soda is indeed a panacea! I was already using it to clean the house, but had yet to use it on myself. I tried it as an alternative to shampoo, deodorant and body scrub. Verdict: it works as a charm. I particularly like it as shampoo because it leaves my hair shinier and easier to comb than regular shampoo (I use a pea-size amount of conditioner and it suffices). Try it!


I was thinking about my post on houses. I kind of idealize smaller houses, but there is one big limitation: I really want my kids to each have their own bedroom - especially now that they are both in their preteen years. If you have any experience or insight on this, please share! 

What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. I love the things you learned and the fact that you didn't do this to strictly to save money - there was so much more behind your reason!!! I sort of like the game - I might have to play catch-up and use this month to purge!!!

    1. Saving money cannot be the main reason because then, as soon as one has more money, they would let go of simplicity! :-)

  2. One of my favorite Royisms (yes, I value myself that much is this: "On my way to living an ascetic life, I began to live an aesthetic life." That is, by giving more things up, my life became a work of performance art.

    As to those who have have questioned the whys, the hows, and the scope of this project, I don't understand them. And to your point, I don't even see this as debate. What you are doing is simply an evolution of yourself, as the result of a changing world around you, and a changing social conscious within you.

    Anyone questions that, needs to look a bit deeper into his or herself.

    Keep it up. I applaud you.

    Today I needed a coat. I left all mine behind in Colorado. I forgot, it still gets cold here on occasion. For $8.99 I purchased windbreaker from The Goodwill store next to my gym. Repurposed. Reused. Not too hard a hit on my wallet.

    The world works best for me this way...

    1. Thank you, Roy, for your indefectible support. :-) And I appreciate your Royism. It's a good one.

  3. I certainly understand your reasons for doing this.

    I'm happy to say that most of my challenges this week have not been too overwhelming, and occasionally even fun. Direction is everything!

  4. I love your reasons for undertaking this challenge. Time certainly trumps money and 'things' in my head.
    This week? I am in the garden. Weeding, weeding, weeding - and dividing plants. I don't need to buy any more for Spring, and for the first time in years I won't be. I hope I stick to that.

  5. Last week was a week of challenges and I failed miserably. 'Nuff said. After watching our daughter move last week and over the weekend we are more determined than ever to rid ourselves of unnecessary stuff.

    1. Oh yes, moving is a very powerful eye-opener! :-) I'm sure you'll do better this week.

  6. "What I have learned in 2 months" .....I had to take a double take on that! 2 months ( 8 weeks) , has gone in the blink of an eye. I for one have read with interest your different posts and how each of us have thought and re-acted about the question you raised.

    Interesting about the baking soda .....thanks.

    All the best Jan

  7. Two months already! At this rate it will be Christmas soon! Ugh!
    Donations? Not much this week. I have a pile of books that I know I won't want to read again, so I'm working my way through them, this week I passed on two. I put a sticker inside that reads "this is a travelling book, please read and enjoy then leave it somewhere for someone else to find" and I left them on a bench seat in my local shopping mall.
    I'm a huge fan of separate bedrooms, there's nothing worse than wanting some private time, maybe for a good sulk, and finding your sister already in the room having her own sulk.

    1. I love the idea of traveling books! I'm going to do the same with mine!

      Thanks for the insight on separate rooms.

    I remark to friends all the time how Im saying NO MORE
    I NEED the money sure:-) but Id rather have LESS MONEY and more of my most valuable resource.
    my time.

  9. Don't worry about people who are negative about what you are doing. I think that embarking on a period of intetional reflection and re-consideration is a wise course that helps us grow and lead a more fulfulling life. We live in a culture that bombards us with a "reality" of who we should want to be and how we can get there by owning all of the right things. Yet, because we are immersed in it, we often don't even realize how our perspective is being influenced. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, "To the fish, the water is invisible". By taking time to review our lives and our choices, we are bound to make better decisions and live a more intenional life. Good for you!

  10. I think it does help to look at the 'philosophy' behind what you are doing. It helps refine what you really want and what you are aiming for.

    I'm in a similar boat with the housing question. I love an uncluttered home but I do also really savour and enjoy space (and privacy.) We have a bigger house than we need but I really love that and appreciate it consciously.

    I have never thought of trying the baking soda as shampoo - must do!

    1. With successive approximations, I trust that we can all find the sweet spot that works for us!