Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Passion Project

I vibrate when planning a trip.  Constructing & reconstructing a house of cards.  

All the potential combinations of airfares, lodging, credit card miles, expenses, etcetera dance through my head changing partners at the prompt of a caller. If this, then that.  If that, then this.  The possibilities swim in a soup of adrenaline that is my brain. 

The numbers tick & click out of a hypothetical calculator onto a roll of paper that piles around my feet.  My fingers bounce from website to website testing bits & pieces like a mad scientist.  Hours roll by as if in a movie montage.

My mind shivers nervously envisioning everyone else in the world will swallow this exact itinerary before I hit 'confirm'.  I wait breathlessly for the final approval from all other players involved as if awaiting the president's nod to push the button.

Will the stars align? Will all the cogs fit just so in this machine?  Has all my beautiful labor formed into our next amazing adventure?

I thrive on this rush.  It's a passion from birth to completion.  I see the process through from hearing about a destination here & there to sprinkling it into conversation with my husband to floating some dates to crunching the numbers to booking & ahhh finally, finally to reveling in the spoils.  


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Doing the Holidays

It's official.  I have seen the first holiday commercial.  Therefore, I have permission to broach the subject of simplifying during this time of year.  Also, I have been approached by more than one person asking about this sticky subject.

Whether due to philosophical reasons, economic challenges, or a little of both, people are altering their concept of what this season should look like.

I've informally developed a few guidelines for myself, & I attempt to apply these to my family as well - some times with more success than others.

1)  Give an experience - not a thing

Instead of receiving stuff, I would prefer two concert tickets and a dinner date, a contribution to our next vacation, or a hang gliding session on my bucket list - all of which I would most definitely cherish & love to do.  These items do not become clutter in my life, but they still add great value.

For children, I've requested that people donate to buy my daughter a class like dance or swimming.  One year, my family pooled together to buy gift certificates for a family season pass for snow tubing.

Christmas is no longer about the accumulation of stuff.  It's about conveying your love for someone.  A candle or gift certificate, for example, are impersonal & tell me that you may not really know me well or care about my interests.  

2)  Only kid gifts - no adults

The real enjoyment in our gift unwrapping is watching the kids open their presents.  This one's self explanatory.  I also preset a reasonable budget for shopping.  


3)  Give to those in need

Last year, my cousin & I devised a plan to turn our holiday party into a giving experience.  We made a few gift baskets, & for each item someone donated to our charity of choice, they got a raffle ticket to enter to win a basket.  We collected a considerable pile to donate to a local women's shelter.  And, an added bonus was that few people went home with more stuff.  They left with the satisfaction of knowing they helped others in addition to seeing their loved ones.


Opportunities abound at the this time to serve.  When you are generous & giving, it's a win-win.  The feeling you get from being kind is a return gift that requires no wrapping.

4)  Keep your home uncluttered

I've trimmed our decorations to a tree & lights.  Simply adding holiday scented candles & a holiday themed Pandora station can dramatically transform your home without the added knick knacks.  Eventually, the influx of cards, a handful of gifts, & holiday treats become decorations themselves which will eventually cycle out of our home.


5)  If you give a gift, it must be extremely thoughtful

I attempt to put a lot of thought & consideration into buying a physical object for someone.  I like to know it's something they truly want, need, is valuable, and/or they will find beautiful.  

6)  Accept that some people just insist on giving stuff

These concepts are going against tradition or habit for some family & friends. I find this is true especially with the older generations.  Just smile & graciously accept the gifts.  Hopefully, there will be less & less as the years go by.

7)  Remember the spirit of the season, not the hype

Whether you are religious or not, there is a unique sense of love, care, & generosity in the air at this special time.  We connect with friends & family and help those in need.  

We know deep down that the aim of the holidays is not about spending mountains of money, shopping nonstop, & exchanging thoughtless junk.  However, we feel obligated to go with the crowd.  

I say 'no more'.  Start a simplification of the holidays & return to the true heart of the season.  


* If you have any more great ideas on how to celebrate the holidays without stuff, please feel free to share!  * 




Thursday, October 10, 2013

Opportunistic

My client flagged me down as I was leaving his office. In an afterthought, he floated the question, "Hey. I have a trip coming up. Would you like to go to... (pauses to remember where)?"

Without hesitation I answer, "Yes."

He laughed - at my impulse, at his momentary lapse in remembering that I'll go anywhere, at the goofy grin on my face.

I added, "You could go to the middle of nowhere, & I would say yes." Upon pondering it another minute, "I am an opportunist."

He laughed again knowingly. "This is true. This is true."

Even in the middle of nowhere, I can find awesome opportunities to explore. I can discover people with stories to tell. I can take more adventures. I can gain new understandings of myself & a fresh perspective of the world. Not to mention, in the above example, I get to do a job I love.

I strive to keep myself open to opportunities as they arrive & arrive, they do - mostly unplanned.

In Augusta, GA, I was introduced to the growing food scene by a local. In Charleston, SC, I met with several locals who steered me through the nightlife & cooked an amazing bowl of homemade grits on a rainy day. In Grand Rapids, MI, I met with a new friend one afternoon for coffee & chatted as if we had known each other for years. In San Jose, CA, I hiked with a new friend & enjoyed our company so much that we spent 24 hours in Santa Cruz shortly after.

You don't have to travel to uncover these opportunities - although it's one of my favorite ways. When a friend asks to carve out a morning for coffee, accept it. When you see an ad posted on the board at the library that appeals to you, go for it. When you spot a workshop that interests you, take advantage of it. When that new, foreign restaurant opens
on the corner, try it.

The ultimate beauty is that you not only enjoy the awesomeness of *that* experience, but it often leads to yet another opportunity. It's an endless flow of possibilities. The only question is...

Are you going to go for it?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trading Up

I woke my daughter early, & we hit the road at 7:00 am for the National Zoo.  We were advised to arrive early for the pandas' feeding & to see the animals best before the heat arrived - along with the crowds.

The morning flowed perfectly - no rush, no serious mom voice, no mini-tantrums, & most importantly, no traffic.  It was beautiful in its simplicity.

We only shared the park with joggers & power walkers as we ambled to the panda habitat.  The sun was not yet beating down relentlessly, & the weather was just right.

The pandas sat, unaffected by the onlookers, munching on their bamboo breakfast.  

The day continued seamlessly & drama free as we made our way from one environment to another.  Periodically, my daughter would grab my hand as we walked & looked at me with a contented smile.  My eyes clicked mental pictures of that peaceful expression as I smiled in reply.

*  *  *  *  *

After lunch, we began our journey home, but midway I had to stop to hand off something I sold online.  It was a quick transaction at an agreed upon gas station along the way.  The guy handed me the $30, & I gladly passed along some old picture frames I purged recently.  

*  *  *  *  *

Then it hit me -  a light bulb moment.

I spent about $35 for the zoo & lunch, & I received $30 for my old stuff - money out, money in.

I grinned as I thought 'That's awesome.  It was almost an even trade for the day.'  I quickly course corrected my own realization though.

My useless clutter became money which afforded us a priceless day together.

Truthfully, 'I traded up.'  


Friday, July 5, 2013

Excess Baggage (Lessons From My Carry On)

My husband and I sat patiently waiting for our ferry to dock.  We were returning to our beloved Italy for a dream trip to Lake Como, the Cinque Terre, & Turin.  This was the last leg of our long journey to our first destination, the quaint town of Como.

It was a bumpy adventure over the previous 12 hours.  We experienced a delayed flight and cliched mad dash through Heathrow.  And now, here we sat, exhausted, on a boat - in the rain.

As often happens, we chatted with a young couple who, as it turns out, were on their honeymoon.  They were sweet and friendly as are most fellow travelers.  However, I took notice to their train of luggage.  Each sported a cross-body bag, a medium carry-on with wheels, & a large suitcase.

I could see the envy in their eyes - that look of regret.  The new bride asked me haltingly, "That's... all... you have?"  She referred to our lack of baggage.

We smiled knowingly and answered, "Yes."

*  *  *  *  *

I get this reaction often.

I have traveled a multitude of places for many days at a time simply with a carry on bag - my 1996 green, high school Jansport backpack to be exact.

I can pack a few mix & match pieces, my toiletries, and up to two pair of shoes.  Of course, laundry detergent is helpful to recycle said outfits.  From this bag I have seen the most magnificent sights, enjoyed amazing experiences, & hopped freely from one setting to another.

I can easily slip through crowds, stow away quickly on flights, exit the airport without delay, squeeze onto public transit, keep sight of my belongings, and hike to my destinations if necessary.  When I locate my lodging, I drop my bag & slip out to my next adventure - untethered.

Not only is it convenient, I've received compliments on my attire.  I feel secure that I pick my best, most flattering, pieces to be among the few.

*  *  *  *  *

This begs the question...

If I've had some of the most incredible moments of my life subsisting via this precious backpack, then why must I live my daily life out of 100 bulky pieces of luggage?

My baggage does not make my trip, & my belongings do not make my life - my experiences do.  

While some are busy packing for 'what if', I'm already out the door finding the answer. 


Friday, May 17, 2013

The Reason I Write

I began my journey into a more simple, meaningful life a few years ago.  

I was easily agitated, unsettled, & prone to outbursts in my mid to late twenties.  However, when I paused to evaluate my life, there was absolutely no reason to be this way.  I had an amazing marriage, a great house, loving family, my dream job, regular vacations, and all the gadgets I wished for, but I still wasn't at peace.

One day, I Googled the words 'how get rid stuff'.  Leo Babauta's ZenHabits.net was among the top hits.  His writing introduced me to the world of minimalism.  I devoured every word.  It felt like common sense.

I, then, linked to multiple others who wrote on similar subjects - BecomingMinilalist.com, TheMinimalists.com, BeMoreWithLess.com, and ExileLifestyle.com.

These resources in conjunction with my interest in meditation, affirmations, & energetics have guided me to a peace that I have never known before.

I commonly see bloggers in pursuit of earning money via their writing, & I have no problem whatsoever with this, but I am not looking to monetize my work.

I receive "payment" in non-financial ways.

A friend messaged me to express thanks for introducing the concept of minimalism to her.  She is taking her first baby steps to remove unnecessary items.

Another friend earned a sizable amount of money by selling her "out the door" pile.

One woman I worked with found $100 cash under a pile of paperwork that had mounted on her desk.

A coworker is planning to downsize her living space to save money to pursue her dreams of traveling.

Yet another friend cleaned out a storage space in America so she could continue her new life untethered in another country.

I helped to change a coworker's perspective on his upcoming move across the country.  He was unnerved about getting rid of everything & starting anew.  I reminded him that he has a clean slate.  He can start all over again with less.  He reported that he feels great as his load lightens & is realizing how little he truly needs.  Plus, the decreased expense for a smaller apartment will allow him to transition more smoothly.

YOU are the reason I write.  I vibrate with the need to share, & I am compensated by your successes.  
  


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Remembering the Why

My husband grabbed one end of the five foot cardboard box & I the other.  We attempted a few different ways to shove it into my 4-door 2005 Honda Accord.  

"It's not going to work," he asserted.

"No.  I think I can get it," I countered.

I ran to the opposite side - attempting one last maneuver to cram it into my backseat.

"Gosh darn stuff!" I grunted as I invested my last bit of energy.

Finally!  The box cleared the door frame & landed on my seat... sideways.

My husband affirmed the obvious, "You know it's just going to all fall out when you pull it out?"

"I know," I sighed.

I drove the car to the grassy yard sale site a quarter mile from our home.  In an attempt to spare my poor husband from any more of my great ideas related to this venture, I decided to transport the box from my car & up a small hill.

Surprisingly, it wasn't too difficult to slide it out the door.  'Phew' I thought.  'This shouldn't be too bad.'

Within seconds, clothes started to pop out the top - now side - of the box as it puckered & buckled.  All of the clothes I painstakingly folded into nice, neat piles according to type melted into a jumbled soup on the sidewalk.  Not only was it fabric that lie on the ground - it represented wasted money, wasted time, wasted opportunity.

I wanted to cry.

Not because the clothes were becoming dirty.  Not because my organization & planning went to waste.  Not because my husband could gloat about being right.  And not because of the woman parked nearby who stared at me blankly as I contorted myself to save the contents.

I felt defeated by my own insatiable desire to acquire so much stuff.  I burdened myself with this debacle.  I got myself into this mess.  After 2 years of simplifying, clothing is my last hurdle.

I spent a few hours upset about the situation.  Until I came to a realization - a remembering.

This is a painful reminder of why I should never let it get to this point ever again.  

It never would have been enough.  The stuff never made me truly content, & I blindly continued to search for happiness in acquiring more.

The truth is that I am enough just as I am - no more but definitely with less.