Minimalist Kitchen Guidelines

These are the general rules I abide by, and these tips help to keep the kitchen as streamlined and enjoyable to cook in as possible.  Not only do these tips help to save money, but they also save you in time spent cooking.  Living like this adds to health and peace, and you can pick and choose the guidelines you want to live by, and personalize everything to your liking.

1. Soups are a splurge.

Soups take a lot to heat, to prepare and a lot of specialty ingredients or herbs.  Bone broths have naturally occurring MSG which can lead to migraines, as with a dairy base.  My life improved tremendously after I eliminated making soup at home for the most part, even though nobody loves dipping bread in soup more than me!  No microwave is necessary when my side is always rice. I still have a soup from time to time, but it’s as often as I bake: about once a month.

2. Crackers over bread.

It’s easy to overeat because sandwiches come in a specific size.  Crackers encourage you to eat until you’re full.  That’s what I love about eating at home: It encourages to listen to your body.  No predetermined amount.  Crackers are also better than bread because they don’t weigh on energy nearly as much and also store significantly longer and more compactly.  They don’t require a toaster either!

3. Water over everything else.

Filtered water, no beans, no sugar, no flavor, no ice, no lemon.  Wow, what a beautiful thing!  So simple.  So pure.  No more lugging in drinks for soups and with extra sugar that we don’t need.  In fact, sugar is linked to two of the biggest killers in the US currently: heart disease and cancer.   Better for our health, wallet, and most of all, storage space. Tea is the next minimalist drink after water because leaves store compactly.

4. Keep smoothies simple.

Can you get all smoothies down to 3-5 ingredients?  It’s worth a try.

5. Condense recipe cards.

I’d rather have 5-10 amazing recipes with one simple side like rice than many cookbooks that will collect dust and grease.  When you cook similar recipes again and again, the recipe card instructions can shrink.  Condensing cards makes preparing, shopping for ingredients, and drawing up shopping lists easy. When the food is high quality, you barely miss the variety. Most of us eat out of the house at least once a week, so we will still have novelty where it comes to food.

6. Baking, to a minimum.

I don’t eat bacon at home anymore, which I always fried in the oven to avoid splatters.  Pork in general wasn’t worth it for me, but if it is for you, not a big deal.  However, baked goods definitely weigh on mood and weight.  People that suffer from depression are often told to watch sugars and carbohydrates.  No sooner way to bring down mood and energy in a cubicle than to have bread at lunch.

Why not buy baked goods out if you must have them, instead of make them?  I cannot tell you how great it is to never have to clean the oven, to not store many ingredients only required to bake bread.  Microwaves and ovens barely used means efficient meal prep, quick cleaning, and very little kitchenware required. Baking requires so many ingredients and kitchenware.

7. Freezer goods, to a minimum.

Leftovers and mixed veg kept to a minimum is very nice. A clean freezer and fridge makes sure that nothing goes to waste. Fewer condiments mean greater health. The only thing I keep in the freezer are ingredients for smoothies and protein.  Jamming the freezer full will mean a lot of freezer clean-out; things will be forgotten and containers will warp.  Disregard this tip if you never have waste in the freezer or if you can already see everything easily.

By keeping ingredients few though, I don’t have to label everything:  Everything gets used in a reasonable time.

Simplicity rewards in surprising ways.  The closer we get to the core, the more meaningful and healthy life becomes. I call this effortless living.

Minimalist Food Diary

A food diary has the biggest potential of almost anything else to change your life.  Food affects mood/energy, health/illness, appearance, and also everyday life in that we have to cook, store, shop for, and prepare it.  Therefore, the more simple and healthy we can make food, the better our bodies and lifestyles improve.  Few things in life do we do more than once a day, so it makes sense to spend extra time examining how food makes you look and feel.

Detailed Method:

There are two ways to do a food diary.  The first is for those who like keeping detailed notes and who have a hard time recognizing patterns unless everything is laid out.  For you, you would have to keep a detailed list for two weeks of everything you eat, alongside any changes to energy and appearance.

Here is what a one-day entry might look like:
Monday – turkey, water, hummus, crackers, salsa | stew (see recipe card), rice
Mood: great  | Appearance: okay | Headache, but may be because of thunderstorm.

Broad Method:

The broad method works great if you notice patterns easily and are mindful.

Monday – hummus with crackers | stew
Mood: great

After two weeks, you would begin to eliminate the categories that have the biggest potential for causing problems, but only eliminate one at a time.  If you eliminate two, you won’t know what is causing what, and it may be too restrictive.  Track appearance and energy accordingly.  Also, when choosing which category to eliminate, you should choose it intelligently, based on what has the biggest potential based on your ethnicity or health concerns or based on which one causes people the most problems if you have no illness.

Common Concerns:

Here are common problems, and the things that may be linked to them.  Remember not to assume anything.  Prove everything.  Note: Digestive issues will cause problems falling asleep because the body is working overtime and overheating.  When your body is cool, it is easier to fall asleep.

headache – dairy, citrus, caffeine (even in dark chocolate), broths (naturally occurring MSG), thunderstorms, stress, menstruation, pork, nitrates in deli meat

digestive issues – too much fiber (artichoke, avocado), too little fiber, cruciferous vegetables, heavily flavored food, fried food, fermented foods (cheeses, red wine, sauerkraut), steaks

bloating – carbohydrates (bread, noodles), beer, dairy

cavities – acid, sugar

dull skin – breads, sugar, too much sodium, too little sun

Here are common categories that you may want to try to keep an eye on, lessen, or weed out (one at a time) for two weeks: high sugar, acid, fermented foods, soy, high fiber, alcohol/caffeine, dairy, MSG, high fat, bread, potato, onion/garlic, spicy food, red meat, pork, deli meat with nitrates, shellfish.

You may be surprised the foods or drinks causing the most problems, but it is the best day when you uncover problems.  We are not perfect, but knowledge is power.  We can choose the life we want.

 

Minimalist Traps

I think there are different thought processes that are counterproductive to minimalism, and I have battled with all of these over the years and have overcome them one by one. These are great to become cognizant of, as they can make progress toward simplicity a very slow one.

1. The best deal.

We should be aiming for quality. Quality in life and items. Therefore, it is counterproductive to try to save as much by buying more than we need, a brand we wouldn’t ordinarily, and by spending precious time scouting coupons, sales, or driving to extra stops to get the best deal. Quality over scattered to-dos and intricate plans. Free your mind.

2. Productivity.

Productivity is such a common theme for us. We want to do it all; we want to have it all. Instead, we should try to eliminate all errands and to-dos and useless goals especially. What can we buy online? What can we eliminate from our plate that does not add to our life at all in terms of goals? Is everything worth achieving? What insecurities do we have that are leading us down the path of impractical fashion or the mom who can do it all? Can we ask for help or pay for help? For instance, a service outside of the house can scan all our photos for us. Can we eliminate a to-do or even just a step or ingredient?

3. Variety.

Variety especially in food can be a great downfall. So much of food is not healthy. Soup is one of my favorite splurges, but there is almost nothing healthy in a soup for me. Most bases consist of dairy or bone broth. All bone broths have naturally occurring MSG. So this is an okay indulgence for me, but why does the perfect meal in our mind have a side salad or soup maybe? What in us makes us want to complicate a meal? Also, having crackers instead of bread at lunch helps to manage serving size because I can stop when I’m full. A sandwich is a set size. Think about all the variety in the kitchen in terms of baking, flavoring, and sides that we could streamline. Less we buy, less we have to shop for and put away. What a great life that would be! We would be healthier, save money, and have more time.

4. Trying to get all your money back.

The sunk cost fallacy is when we hang on to something because of what we’ve already invested, even though it doesn’t add to our life whatsoever. Past prices paid should not be considerations for future action. How something operates now is what matters.

In addition, we try to get all of our money back as much as possible, which means possessions can take a long time to sell, or things that we should have donated are collecting in a pile as a reminder of all our poor purchases. Consider your time and energy: Selling has a cost. Cut losses as soon as you can manage. You will never regret it. A great life is on the other side of peace and autonomy.

5. Organizing instead of eliminating.

Buying specialty organizers or decor pieces are often a mistake, but it’s not simply the organizer itself. Most of what we organize we eventually will get around to eliminating on our journey toward simplification and freedom. Why not jump a few steps ahead and eliminate now, before shopping for the organizers? Take the loss on the extra batteries and Q-tips you may have collected, if you can’t get through them in 6 months. Organize what is reasonable only.

6. Treating symptoms instead of attending to the root.

Decluttering is a symptom of something bigger. Maybe we were distracted, maybe insecure or afraid, maybe unhappy and impulsive — maybe all of it. If we do not question our motives and how we arrived where we are, we run the risk of collecting and decluttering continuously. Be ruthless the first time around and learn about yourself as much as possible, through helpful tools like the Myers-Briggs, Enneagrams, and instinctual stacking, then you will know your weaknesses and your strengths. You will become a whole person and will never go back to where you were again.

Pantry and Fridge Staples

Over the years, I’ve leaned toward keeping things as simple as possible, in preparation time and energy. It makes sense to have few ingredients because everything is easy to put away, shop for, and everything is fresh. One of the only things I bake is blueberry muffins, and I will post my recipe next. I try to only keep multi-purpose ingredients. Ingenuity and simplicity in the kitchen make for manageable and pleasant cooking and cleaning.


Pantry staples:

tomato juice
almond milk
olive oil
honey

all-purpose flour
sugar

onion
garlic
potato

crackers
rice
tortilla chips
salt and vinegar chips
mini cookies

beef stew packets
low-sodium packets
curry packet

kidney bean cans
tomato sauce cans
Rotel

Fridge staples:

ketchup
mayonnaise
Worcestershire sauce
salsa

hummus
turkey
butter
chicken

lettuce
carrots
celery
apples

Freezer staples:

beef (or beef substitute)
blueberries
kale or spinach

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Baking staples:

These are rarely used and kept in a separate area.
vegetable oil, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, chocolate chips, cornstarch

Consume on occasion:

peanut butter
coconut milk
tortillas
walnuts
pine nuts
mustard
beef broth
cornichons
cheese substitute
teriyaki sauce
Italian dressing

A Happy Life

A lot has been said about happiness, and very little of it is dependent on success, as most of us recognize.  Success defined by society is generally a great family or a great career.  While both are great, success is a personal thing.  Having supportive family, learning, and extra money adds to life, but they don’t deserve the responsibility we give them.

It has been said that life is about the journey, not the end result.  I think that’s true, mainly because there is no predictable or definitive result.  If you only concern yourself with results, they never seem to arrive.  So focusing on enjoying the journey makes a lot more sense because the journey will always be with us.  It is not something we should try to get over.  Another thing that will always be with you until you die is yourself; so investing in discovery and love is always worth it.  If you can love yourself, you can love others better, so it is a selfless thing.

Intentions matter very little compared to action.  If we can align action with intentions, then there is peace in spirit.  The spirit is something worth listening to, even more than the body and the mind.  Mostly we concern ourself with the physical, but we also put scientists and philosophers on pedestals.  The soul is easier to put down, and it is unlikely to get recognition like the mind and body.  Physical beauty transcends all personalities, all languages; enlightenment and inner beauty has a lot more difficult of a time.  There is little incentive to concern ourselves with the soul as a society if we are not dogmatic, and we lose for this.

Water intake and keeping up with to-do lists are less important.  It is all a matter of personality and priority.  I encourage you to draw a list of happiness, keep it by your bedside, and to share it.  There are things we can learn from each other.  This is a general list, but specific lists are more personal and help even more in times of crisis.

Happiness:

minimizing media
few possessions: more freedom, more time
“thank you”
highlighting the strengths of others
physical touch
investing in relationships: time, money, effort
meditating
purpose
wonder, discovery: art, road trips, nature
examining
peacemaking
confidence
sunshine
smiling for nothing at all

Ambition

Authenticity is a tricky subject.  Tact and diplomacy are important to me.  There is a sense of security when there is distance from public opinion, with age or actual distance, among other things: In the city, fashion and self-expression are more important.  With success, priorities and lifestyle change for most people:  You want to reward and encourage ambition if it pays off, and so you will naturally segue into a life of rewards — often pointless or expensive — for effort.  You will want to ensure your children have similar opportunity and joys like all the adults who live around you will do for their children.

These rewards are not pointless to other people because they haven’t had them yet for any length of time or because they feel good momentarily.  It’s not pointless in advertisement for obvious reasons.  So you can convince yourself that it is not pointless for a while.

It is easy for us to criticize politicians.  Politicians live fast-paced lives, and eventually, many of them sacrifice their own morals or values for their ambition or even just for security – a retirement for themselves and a college fund for their children.  There is a common theme in humans, of short-term thinking and selfishness.  Politicians are very human; they’re in charge of other humans and more money, so the shortcomings are more pronounced.

Ambition:

Ambition is always seen as a good thing in the US.  Especially in Asian cultures, memorization and accomplishments are the measure of a man.  The result is more important than the journey, but the result never comes.   Intentions matter more than the result, but the intentions rarely follow through. Results don’t feed the soul; so there is an emptiness to it all.

From a young age, I pushed myself as hard as I could, making strategic sacrifices, and often ignoring my own feelings in exchange for results.  This produced a very formulaic life.  Relationships, on the other hand, rely on emotion, and so are rarely predictable.

Online, there are many MLM plans, and there are many people within them that are motivational and positive.  The world needs more positivity surely, but positivity rarely goes with respect.  Somehow it never feels real to some of us.  Feelers give a nod to thinkers, but thinkers do not like unpredictability and are skeptical of emotion.  The gist of motivational speaking is to press harder, to take more risks.

I have to ask for the root of all of the chasing:  Where does inadequacy come from?  We can achieve many things, but is there ever too much success or security? Why not?  Why do we prioritize success and security so highly, over love and enjoyment?

No End in Sight:

What high-achievers rarely tell is that to press yourself constantly out of your comfort zone, to consistently push beyond what is healthy for a human — which is required — creates an unbalanced human, either one like the mad scientist detached from the physical world, or one like the successful MLM speaker, who needs to maintain reward for the tedious work and travel.  In the end, it is never enough.

No discovery, scientific or otherwise, no milestone means this is the end of achievement.  There’s always more to require from yourself.  There is a feeling of inadequacy at the end of it all, that you should have done more, that you should have enjoyed youth more, that responsibility is taking away from autonomy or authenticity – two of the most valuable things.  This is something no one is told before signing on to an MLM plan or a prestigious degree:  You will become more machine than man.  You will reward yourself with things that probably won’t matter that much.  Relationships will suffer if you push yourself constantly because rationality is a thing only rewarding in business and a lack of time lessens every other part of life.

Meaning:

You will help many people along the way, with scientific advancement or with helping more realize their goals, and that is perhaps the only meaningful reward.  Money doesn’t mean much after 70K. Security is not a thing humans can ever really grasp.

Success is what you make it.  There is a fine line between what saves and destroys.  Ambition, like many things, criss-crosses that line.  Worldly success requires many things, many things that take us away from the things that make us feel.  Complacency has its own cost, but those costs are more apparent and for another time.

Too Little:

Maybe you are on the opposite end of the spectrum: You can never get a hold of life.  There are many high-achievers that will churn out endless content on productivity.  But the answer is in that: It never ends.  Don’t be productive for the sake of being productive or for only money or respect.  Eliminate the unnecessary — even unnecessary productivity tips — and with whatever is left, set parameters.  Don’t let ambition overcome health mentally and spiritually.

Too Much:

If you have always been a high-achiever, maybe this is your time to examine the points behind it.  Family. Anxiety.  What are all the to-do lists and stress you put on yourself accomplishing in the long-run?  Maybe lessening the burden on yourself means a better life for your children or spouse, even if it could mean less visual success.  Turn toward the inside, finding peace in just sitting next to or holding another.

 

 

Floating Nightstands

I really love floating nightstands, not just for their practicality, but for the fact that they look other worldly, defying gravity.  Indeed, floating nightstands are the most pragmatic purchases, because they are easy to vacuum under and they require the least space.  If you are in a small apartment or bedroom, they make the most sense.  It depends on how many things each person keeps by their bedside, but not everyone needs a nightstand.  If a lamp is not necessary, you can keep your favorite items under the bed, easily accessible, in a shoe box.

The great thing about buying on Etsy is that we are supporting someone’s passion, their small business.  I try to buy on Etsy wherever it makes sense to do so.  For something like a floating nightstand, it is difficult to find in store, so Etsy is the perfect place to find the best options.

Here are my favorites, listed in order:

1. Solid Black Walnut Floating Nightstand – $470

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2. Floating Nightstand in Walnut Scandinavian Design – $285

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3. Floating Nightstand With Shelf – $390

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4. Compact Floating Nightstand with Shelf – $279

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5. Floating Nightstand with Oak Drawer (pair) – $294

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Bird’s-Eye View

I think that perspective is the best thing you can strive for in life, because with perspective and knowledge, we can come to know understanding.  More experiences in life – through travel, years lived, raising children, reading books – usually results in more knowledge, in broader perspective.  It depends if we allow experiences to challenge or if we bend our experiences to fit our reality, our closest premises.

Bias:

Advice, by its nature, is biased.  I can give you advice, but it will always be tailored towards thinkers before feelers because that’s who I am.  I can swear that pride is the thing that brings a man down, but that is, again, speaking from an INTJ perspective.  It will resonate to some, usually those the most like my personality.

My uncle is a different man.  An ISTJ, a sensor, he loves the status quo.  He is matter of fact and competent at day-to-day tasks, unlike most intuitives like me.  The things he would stand by are laws and past precedent, that these are the things that help his life find order.  Indeed, that is the truth for him and many other sensors, but nothing in life is all-encompassing. Everyone has a different personality, and so, different languages, priorities, and solutions.  I’ve always valued autonomy, so my life looks a little more unorthodox.  It’s harder to respect a life like mine, if 75% of the population is a sensor like my uncle.  But it is where I thrive.  The result can be appreciated or respected, if not the methodology.

Space:

Everything I offer, I hope that you tailor it to yourself.  Everything that you say, I know that it is opinion, just like you know what I say is my own.  The problem is when we allow past authors to speak with authority, to command, and when we begin to pass off our own anecdotal experience and perspective as fact.  It is, to be sure, a fact for us.  Our advice works for us; it is as real as the sun that rises every morning.  But to others, what causes us to soar in the sky, can sink them into the depths.  The very same advice, applied to different people, produces all kinds of result.  It can set one free and feel like prison to another.  If you are a sensor and I said that authority doesn’t matter, the past doesn’t matter – that is a cruel thing for me to say.  That is what matters to you, and if I care about you, I will care about what you care about.  So it is with clutter.  To a logical person, I can see that clutter has no use, but if I think from a broader perspective, I can see that it may have meaning to you.  I will carve out a space for you because I love you. 

Authenticity:

People naturally gravitate to whoever they really were all along with age, when they care less about what other people think and what they were taught.  If they are a sensor, they tend to gravitate towards what has been done.  If they are an intuitive person, their life is more messy, and they gravitate to new paths.  You can raise four kids in the same manner, and they all have different outcomes because of their individual personalities.  These personalities, more than beliefs, drive their choices.  To try to force them into a specific reality (be a doctor, believe this) sets them back and doesn’t change who they really are inside.  With this childhood, if they follow a passion that is not accepted, they may do so with guilt; and if they do not follow their passion, they set up a life where they are bound to hurt many people when they snap backward after a decade or more of doing what they thought they should have been doing, instead of realizing what really matters to them.  

With age, we will figure out where we should have been headed, what our passions and priorities always were from childhood, the people we mesh so well with.  The problem is, thinking in a narrow vein, instead of broadly, sets us back for many years.  Short-term thinking allows for immediate action, expediency — which is required in most households — but these things can come at the expense of intellect and foresight.  The problems coming down the pike are in clear view, but we are missing it by seeing only the here and now.  

Great Love:

What works for us may work for three of our four kids, because 75% of people are sensors.  But it won’t work as well for our intuitive children, and instead of feeling disappointment in this, tap into and applaud what makes each child unique.  Everyone has something different and necessary to offer.  Nothing is all good or bad.  There are pros and cons to all personality types.  Intuitive children can be exceptionally creative, for instance.  I don’t want anyone to lose a decade to worry; the process of finding what matters is messy.  It’s cleaner if we support the process, instead of interfere with good intentions.  Life is messy, by nature.  Religion and politics bring some order, but even within those borders, we see the mess all the time.  The result rarely deviates from what is.  Methodology should be personal.

Everyone’s journey is different, and the solutions and passions will deviate.  

Only with understanding is there true love, a love that doesn’t change or control.   Love based on others will fluctuate.  Compassion is great love.  Great love and peace is what captures our attention.  Beauty always does.

What After Minimalism?

Minimalism is not the end goal; it is a means to an end.  We can get caught into the vortex of decluttering, which can take a year or more, that we can’t imagine a life where we are not stopping by the donate center or paring down kitchenware once a month.  After making cleaning, cooking, and other routines the most efficient and adding peace to life, through downsizing physically and otherwise, we are left with new time and energy.  This peace benefits everyone.

Minimalism means different things to different people, and the reasons for it are personal.  However, there are common goals for the afterward.  More specifically, this is what I think about when I think about minimalism.

The Afterward:

psychology: figuring out who you are, examining influences and premises in place from childhood

depth: growing spiritually through meditation, listening to intuition, engaging creativity, watching the sun rise

freedom: taking a class or traveling, going on road trips, expanding horizons and understanding

health: becoming more mindful of what we eat, who we listen to, and increasing the time we spend in nature, being mindful

assistance: defending the vulnerable, either crushed by life or authority or both, listening

inspiration: encouraging a new way, increasing efficiency, harmony, inclusion – putting your money and time where your values are, with purchases or charity, finding the center

love: spending time with family and friends, being patient and compassionate with those that are difficult, understanding

This isn’t a to-do list, but more of a keep-in-mind list.  Life can be a series of to-dos and milestones, instead of actually living, growing, and discovering.  When we get lost in possessions and errands, it’s nice to come back to the center.

 

Best Features of a House

If you are looking for an apartment or house, this is a list to keep on hand!  Share it if you know of someone else that is looking.  Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve realized that these are the features that make the biggest difference.

Most Important:

1. Sunshine.  My top priority. Big windows and a lot of sunshine help with productivity and happiness. Pat enjoy a lot of sun as well.

2. Recently built. Old apartments or houses will have many problems, problems that will require a lot of possessions and know-how. A place recently built with newer appliances will save a lot of chores and errands: nearly always worth it.

3. Safety. If you don’t live in a safe neighborhood, having a lot of windows may make the home less safe. Also, newer apartments and great schools are generally in the safer areas.

4. Privacy/noise. A place away from the street and from general traffic is ideal.  Drive by a house at different times of the day before buying, and listen for noise.

5. Proximity to the grocery store. Driving long distances means wear and tear on vehicles, difficulty to walk on the sidewalk to get exercise, and more possessions to keep on hand.

Other Things To Keep In Mind:

6. Reviews.  See if the staff is responsive if something goes wrong (if looking for an apartment).

7. Square footage. I don’t live in a tiny house, but anything larger than 2-3 bedrooms will be more than one person can handle. A house with a yard will require extra tasks and expenses. The smaller, the better.  I still like to have space, but there is a balance.

8. Price. If buying, interest, closing fees, and HOA fees need to be considered. If renting, what are the trash, pet, and general utility fees? Some apartments gouge residents for water, for instance. It is important to figure out the actual price because this number won’t change for a long time.