The Most Minimalist Cleaning

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There is a misconception that minimalism means no spending or that it is the equivalent of frugality.  Minimalism is intentional spending instead of no spending. Spending is a part of life.

Minimalism means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Everyone has their spin on it, and that’s the way it should be: What works best is what is personalized.  Minimalism can mean frugality, but for me, above all, it means efficiency.

Cleaners:

When it comes to cleaning, I keep three cleaners.  I rarely ever use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, but they serve their purpose every once and a while.  Ninety percent or more of my cleaning is with vinegar and water.

Benefits of a clean house:

1. encourages productivity
2. sparkles in beauty
3. healthier (air)

Ways to Make Cleaning Easier:

1. Reduce possessions.
2. Hide possessions so they don’t attract dust.
3. Keep possessions near each other so they’re easier to lift and clean around.
4. Reduce cleaners.
5. Reduce square footage.
6. Opt for less furniture and less mirrors.  Glass is difficult to keep clean.
7.  Minimize clothes and surfaces that require special cleaners.

Asking For Help:

I think that growing up poor or growing up where mom does most of the housework, we can easily think that women are supposed to be able to do everything.  It can make us hesitant to ask for help, as if we are less competent, or have an unhealthy relationship with money, where saving is all that matters.  For me, even after college, I never wanted to spend money, and even more, I never wanted to ask for help.  There is a level of control and pride you lose when asking, but I think that less of things things make for a lot more peaceful life.

I do hire a maid once every six months.  A maid every 3-6 months can help with the especially tedious or oddball tasks that slow down because they may require extra products and most of all energy – energy because they are not something you do frequently, so require more thought, or are the difficult tasks.

Maid service or spa services are perfect gifts to ask for.  Flowers are great, but time to yourself and to spend with family is greater.

Perfect candidates to ask for help from family or a maid:

1. high-energy tasks: tub
2. oddball tasks: oven burners
3. time-consuming tasks: laundry

Here are places that really make a difference when delegated:

1. tub
2. baseboard/window sills
3. dusting fan blades and curtains
4. burners and oven (microwave also, if you own one)
5. mopping

The rest can be tackled easily day-to-day. The things that take the longest or require the most work are perfect to delegate.  I’ve spent many years just doing these tasks myself — and falling behind on them — as most of us do.  It’s okay. We are human, and life moves on. What works for you is what will always be best.

This method of intentional living helps to maximize what we value: peace and time. Energy and time are precious. We can’t get them back, and they matter most for our families.

Fear of Losing Money While Decluttering

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The fear of loss is so great, that we hold on to so many possessions, activities, habits, and people in our lives, even when the cost to us can no longer be measured.  Bad relationships are just as hard to leave as good relationships.  Expensive or large possessions that don’t serve us stay for a long time.

It is not all our fault.  It is part psychological:  Loss aversion points that the loss of something has twice the effect on us as a gain.  Also, it is biological to gather, secure, and impress, to store up and to hoard in times of excess.   We have so many possessions and food items to gather from, that without intention, what we own goes quickly past the point of joy and service, to clutter.

Attachment to Ideas:

With our possessions, we hold on because of fear, fear that maybe we will never have enough or be enough.  We have to read through every book, to keep our mind sharp. We have to have enough lipsticks, to keep things interesting.  We have to bake to be an amazing mom/dad.

Money and attachment are the two biggest reasons decluttering takes 20 times as long as it could.  We are attached to the ideas or people behind the items and also to the items themselves if they’ve been with us for a long time.

True Cost:

Our fear of losing money is one that should be highlighted.  Keeping things just because a lot of money was spent is not a good enough reason.  Keeping something because it will waste otherwise (used makeup, opened food) is also not a good enough reason.

It would be better that we threw out the food we don’t use today, even if we can’t donate it, than to hold on in hopes that we can one day use it.  A lot of the food we haven’t touched we don’t like, are a bear to cook, or have ingredients we don’t want to eat.  But we hold on to them anyway, because it would be wasteful and frivolous.

Free Yourself:

This is not true.  There are some things worth far more than money, and that is peace of mind, health, and more time with the people you love.  You get all these things in exchange for just letting go, without trying to get anything back.

Be very selective on what you choose to sell, for the simple fact that minimalism does not apply to just possessions, but to the time and energy we also have to expend.  Errands matter more than possessions because with many errands, decluttering or time with family becomes impossible.  To sell many things guarantees a non-minimalist life for quite a while.  It is better to let go of the money and live in harmony now.

Health and time spent with family is worth every cent.  Instead of thinking of it all as a loss, think of it as a luxury you are affording.  Past mistakes afforded you current wisdom, and letting go is the price to pay for peace.

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

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Be merciful.  Everything that I believe can be summed up in a line:  I desire mercy, not sacrifice. It is too easy to get caught up in routine, learning, image, rules, and our opinions. Kindness is soon sacrificed for pride and human instinct. Our blunt methods override any message we have. Even if the message is compassionate or good, the method distracts and provokes.

Friends shake their head at mercy.  The business world tramples it.  Lovers take advantage of it.   Cynicism and anger are so easy to give into when we hurt. It is a way that we use to control the situation so that we minimize the chance of exacerbating our own fears and pain. It is a mechanism to defend our pride, but this process of giving in to bitterness sets us up to become the perpetrator.

Hypocrisy:

We have all violated our deepest values at some point; out of ignorance or weakness, but does it matter if the result was the same? We ended up hurting ourselves or others. We try to minimize the areas that don’t make sense, but some inconsistency between action and thought will always be there because the desire to do something good will always come easier than doing it.  If we are honest with ourselves, we have been the victims and the perpetrators because of what came easiest at the time.

The world would not be better if there were more of anybody else. Nobody is all good or all bad. We are only human.  Therefore, being kind is the only logical way to live. This is also the minimalist way to live: minimal drama and suffering.

The Challenge:

All people are nice sometimes, and most people are merciful to people they like.  The challenge is toward difficult people or during difficult times.

The reality is there is never a time where you have nothing to gain by being kind. This is because it heals the soul in a way.  The only challenge really is to be kind when we don’t think it is deserved. It takes time to see the positives in that.

To choose to be kind is to choose to remain sweet.  A choice can stay, while feelings can’t.

Always be kind with what you say, and you won’t have many regrets in life. Learn from me; I have had many regrets. But it wasn’t the losses I took and the ways in which I hurt, but the way I handled some things.  Our thoughts perhaps can’t be changed, but actions, through understanding, can be.

I am naturally a cynical person, as an INTJ. What good is knowledge and logic, if all it results in is pride, and then, stress or pain for yourself and others.   Kindness is the one true gem, the thing that sparkles the brightest.  Arrogance is weakness, but mercy never could be.

Mental Illness: Battle of the Mind

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Mind health matters because without it, peaceful living can become monumental.  Many people say health is body, mind, and spirit, but rarely do people take care of their mind outside of exercising it.  Body care is more than just exercise though.  It is also what we eat, our illnesses, and environmental factors (what we put on it, sun, childhood).  Body health is also affected by the mind’s health, so taking care of and understanding the mind is one of the biggest things we can do.

Rarely do we ever think about mental illness, except for when someone online gives it a nod with a meme, a family member is diagnosed, or a shooter goes on a rampage.  There are many forms of mental illness, but only a few are well-known: PTSD, ADHD, bipolar, narcissism, psycopathy.

I recognized my grandma’s schizophrenia or the kid in class that couldn’t sit still; I recognized these things and these alone as mental illness.  Granting legitimacy to the personality or anxiety disorders — it is a lot simpler to write them off that they are done on purpose, that people are just self-absorbed or difficult, people are just looking for an excuse for bad behavior.  People will cite bad parenting, arrogance, or culture.   This is a misunderstanding of mental illness.  Mental illness is a battle of thoughts, impulse, and mood.

Mental illness is either treated or exacerbated; there is no other way it is handled.  Without understanding, it is exacerbated.  You can see it most often online, in friendships, and in political comments.

Famous Examples:

Many well-known figures have suffered with mental illness:  Selena Gomez, Angelina Jolie, Robin Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio.  In the YouTube realm: Zoella, John Green, Jaclyn Hill, Shane Dawson.

Here are other recognizable figures: Isaac Newton, Steve Jobs, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Princess Diana.

So many different YouTube personalities have anxiety or depression, and people with mental illness often do become famous, achieve a great deal, or have positions of power in society, and this is due to the fact that they are eccentric, can be very studious and shut off from society, or enjoy control or attention.  These things make them perfectly situated toward entertainment or leadership.

Stats:

In the United States, mental illness affects more people than any other country.  The top three after the US: Colombia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine.

Over 27% of US adults suffer with mental illness in any given year, and nearly 60% is not diagnosed.  There are various reasons why mental illness is not diagnosed: stigma (judgment, shame, misunderstanding) and cost of therapy.

Stigma:

Stigma is important because it’s probably the biggest reason people don’t look for help after cost.

1.  Tying illness to ineptitude.  Physically handicapped and mentally ill people can do as many things as anyone else, and they often do.  For the normality they don’t have, many have unusual brilliance.

It is rare to see politicians or CEOs admit to mental illness, and that is because of the types of mental illness they are usually associated with and because society’s image of mentally ill is incapable or lesser, which is a reputation they can’t afford.  So they suffer, and the people under them do as well.

2. Laughing at it.  We talk about stigma, but we laugh or roll our eyes at the Facebook friend raving on politics or posting depressing statuses or exhibitionist photographs; I think we all have.  Especially when celebrities act out, there are so many jokes to be made.

We may share an article “How to Know if You’re Dating a Sociopath” after a breakup, which further pushes the idea that people as either good or bad, not human.  Not all sociopaths are dangerous.  Many narcissists aren’t terrible parents.  Most ADHD people aren’t immature.   By painting things as all good or all bad, it helps us to better categorize things; but the price we pay for generalizing is high.

To love is to understand, understand that people try and want the same things that we do. It is easier to make fun of than it is to comfort, but it is not right.

Nothing is all good or all bad, when dealing with humans.

3.  Profiting off impulsivity and pain.  Society will exploit those with weakness, without exception, for entertainment or profit.  We even provoke.  We make SNL skits about them.  We put them on reality TV and hire them for pornography.  We cover the tabloids in their distress and paranoia (recently, Angelina Jolie with her divorce).   Also, marketing preys on almost all symptoms of mental illness: anxiety, impulsivity, low self-esteem, egotism. Pharmaceutical companies jump at the chance to help.

4. Not taking it seriously.  We accidentally make those with it compete for attention (if not suicidal or violent, not serious enough) or present that they are doing things on purpose.  Who can tell what another can control?  We did not create their mind; we are not in their mind.  We do not think a schizophrenic person can help their paranoia, for instance.

You cannot stop racing thoughts, paranoia/anxiety, and fear without knowing what is going on; and even after help, it depends on the day and person.  The best way to help someone suffering is to get them to therapy.

Education:

It is important to know the different types and which gender they affect the most because the earlier it is recognized, the better a person’s life can become.  They can set up their life in a way in which they can heal and thrive.  Also, if you can recognize it throughout society, you can be patient with your spouse, people online, and people at work.

Important:

Prevent exploitation: If you don’t know your weaknesses and inadequacies, advertisers or lovers will exploit you. When you know what is normal and what is not, you can more confidently navigate through life.

Peaceful and safe living: Racing thoughts, deep attachment, fear of abandonment, and constant anxiety make living peacefully near impossible.  Impulsiveness makes living safely difficult.  Your family member may hurt others or themselves with their recklessness and fears of loneliness.

I cannot overemphasize mental health in regards to a peaceful life.   Without taking this problem seriously, there will continue to be high rates of suicide, especially teenager and veteran, exploitation, exhibitionism, ugly divorces, and violence.  We can start by caring about the mental state of our children or spouses.  In almost all cases of mental illness, there are clear signs from youth, and trauma in childhood will exacerbate disorders.

Causes:

Genetics, environment (upbringing), and chance.   In childhood, verbal abuse, physical abuse, or neglect happen because parents are unable to to cope with their own illness or with parenting, and so parents lash out, leave, or have addictions.  Living in fear or instability forces children to cope with things any way they know how, to lessen the pain.

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As adults, they cope with stress the way they learned to as kids, which is usually in an unhealthy manner: violence, avoidance, recklessness, self-harm, clinginess, dramatic behavior for attention, anorexia.  They pass many of these things down to their own children.

Also, things like technology can heighten insecurity and self-absorption, but technology is also a coping mechanism (one of the few) that are available to children. Taking drastic measures with children (taking all technology) is never advised, as it can lead to suicide, depression, or violence, if it really was one of their only coping mechanisms to a life they struggle with.

Telling a child they are the best in the world, especially when one parent is absent or violent, also has been shown to lead to disorders.  Too much adoration and too little can have similar results.  You can never love a child too much, but to always take their side, to tell them they are the most intelligent or beautiful, this is when problems arise.  Prioritizing and recognizing kids for mercy and kindness means they will give it and value it in others, but prioritizing beauty and intelligence is a losing game.

Examples:

To end this post, I wanted to mention the different disorders within mental illness: dissociative, anxiety, mood, psychotic, addiction, personality, and eating.

Some people have a combination of illnesses, not just one.   Personality, mood, and anxiety disorders are extremely common.

The types of personality disorders:

1. odd, eccentric behavior (weird) – schizophrenia, paranoid disorders
2. dramatic, emotional, or erratic behavior (wild) – antisocial, borderline, narcissistic
3. anxious, fearful behavior (worried) – avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive

For detailed information on personality disorders, view them here.

See my post on negative and positive coping mechanisms.  If you use any of these often, you should go to therapy.  Again, go to find patterns, not answers.  The answers that work should be personal.

Minimalist Guide to Productivity

There has been so much said about minimalism and productivity, and maybe it is the driving factor why people get into minimalism: clean home, productive life.  Being a minimalist doesn’t necessarily make you productive, but it gives you space and time to find priorities and weaknesses.  Knowing how your body works can make all the difference when it comes to the ability to getting things done.

Know Yourself:

When shopping for clothes or jewelry, I know the colors that look the best with my skin. You can also get color analysis done.  I think about my Kibbe body type when considering the cut of dress that will look best.

When thinking about beliefs and behaviors, I consider my Myers-Briggs type and also idiosyncrasies that I picked up from childhood.  It’s easier to be kind to others when you (1) consider personality and mental illness and (2) do not allow feelings of superiority, for instance, for nationality or personality type.

For sleep, keeping a food diary and knowing when the body naturally produces melatonin (9-10 p.m.) helps the most.  Certain foods take a long time to digest, raising body temperature and making sleep difficult.  Lavender oil and relaxing music feels luxurious, but it makes only a small difference.  About 80 percent of what we do makes very little difference in our outcome, and we have to consider that, to know where to simplify.

On productivity, the easiest and simplest ways to be productive is:

1. Sunshine.  Sit in a window with a lot of green and sunshine while working on papers and on your laptop.  You can put plants in the window if there is no green outside, but the sunshine matters most.  Sunshine boosts mood and reminds your body it’s daytime and time to work.  In the dark, it is easier to rest, and the mind naturally drifts.

2. Remove distractions.  Many humans are addicted to technology, almost to the same level of added sugar.  Some actually experience withdrawals if technology is gone for a few hours.  How much of your time is spent browsing Facebook or Googling a new thing?  Perhaps you could try writing down all the things you want to Google/shop for and then look it up at one specific time each day.

3. Know your body.   Keep a diary, if necessary. Most bodies get tired right after lunch.  This may be in part what we’re eating (starches, dairy, and sugars), but most people are easily distracted between lunch and 4:00 p.m.  Therefore, try to get the body of your work done between 8-12:30, especially if you work from home.  If you can’t get the majority of your work done between those hours, it’s time to delegate either to your children, to a service, or to a spouse.  Everyone needs rest.  You can’t perform well if you’re always exhausted, and you can’t clean well if your floors or counters are covered in papers and appliances.  So try rest and minimalism.

4. Make a list of each task.  If a task is big, break it up.  You have to know where to start.  Tackle one part of a big task a day, if necessary.  Only do one or a few tasks a day that is unusual (posting to eBay, trying a new appliance); most of our tasks should be routine, and those we can do without mental exertion.

Also, be ruthless with clutter that will require more work if kept; i.e., clothes that need to be sent out to be cleaned, clothes that will require another purchase, equipment with specialty cords.  Think about your future self when setting up systems and decluttering.

5.  Consider things that weigh on mood.  The last big thing is to keep a diary for at least two weeks to be careful of things that weigh on mood and energy.  Here is the list for me that I found over the years, but you will have to find out what brings down your own energy over the long-term: hormonal birth control, dairy, breads (I switched to crackers), brown rice (white rice is easier for me to digest), red meat, lots of added sugar (sugar drinks), caffeine.  Your list will look different from mine.

Here are the things that boost energy for me: green drink, walk in nature or sunshine, a quick mall massage (25 min), smaller meals, cleaning to music, playing with Pat.

There is no need to complicate productivity.  It is in our nature to be productive, if we get back to our roots of simple and natural living.

 

Perfect Song for the Day

I don’t usually post songs, but this song is how I hope to feel towards everyone even when it hurts.  This comes from my favorite television episode “Fifteen Million Merits.”  If you do watch the full episode, it isn’t for children.

 

Happiness and Purpose

I think almost all humans desire meaning in life, deep down. At our more basic form, we are like animals: We care about survival and pleasure. Animals do not think about the future; there is only now, and there is only instinct. Children are this way as well. As adults, we can muse about the future, philosophies, and controlling others.  Animals are incapable of this.  There is some form of purity in inability, but we cannot forget that there is still nature in inability.

Survival and Pleasure:

So much of our life can get caught up in just paying bills (survival) and pleasing ourselves in big and small ways in the off moments. Pleasure is nice and has its place, and some of it can even add to health, but in excess or depravity, pleasure makes humans self-centered, unhealthy, and dangerous, and there is something about excess that feeds our most base selves and encourages pride and hurt for others.

Man vs Selfishness:

What elevates man from animals is not intelligence, because that just allows for control, pride, and more suffering.  Animals can only inflict so much pain on others, and that is because of their limited intelligence. What separates man from animals is that we can deny our instincts, that we long for meaning and ponder the future. We have the capacity to not just survive and feel good.

Happiness:

Meaning should be considered often. People talk about happiness, but I don’t think you can have happiness without purpose.   Meaning exists in the lowliest of circumstances, even where a person is suffering.  Meaning (and so, happiness) is not reserved for the wealthy; happiness is the great equalizer.

Mental health is important to happiness. How can you be free without knowing yourself? How can you understand others without understanding human nature (so you can be merciful towards weakness)?  How can you be kind or at peace if you dwell mainly on pleasing yourself?  Now people can impinge on that version of happiness.  It’s not lasting, or meaningful.

Studies find that relationships are crucial to happiness.  The 80/20 rule is a rule that most of what we do (80 percent) can be eliminated, and the outcome would be the same. Career, achievement, money, and fame are the variables that affect happiness a little, but relationships add the greatest to any life. You can’t have healthy relationships, in the home or out, without searching for understanding. So kindness and understanding are important to happiness.

What Is Our Purpose?

That is our purpose in life. To not add to pride or anger or resentment, but to soften the cruelness in life, to point toward something greater.  All children, adults, and animals experience this cruelty, sometimes from their own nature, and this suffering is inescapable.

We can hide in our rooms or our thoughts. We can seek to control situations, so that we are causing the suffering, instead of taking it.  Some may hide away because they are healing or trying to understand themselves, and this is fine.  But at some point, we will want to soften the cruelty that we have felt.  You could say almost everyone is illogical and self-serving, but that is not understanding of human nature.  That is giving into it, by cynicism and pride.

Everyone offers advice based on their current reality, and everyone does what makes sense to them. Their goals have been affected by their beliefs, illnesses, and personality. There are endless personalities, and endless ways something can make sense to someone.

Because of this, relationships will always be messy. But we are not animals. Humans can make choices that go against instinct, even to the death, which is something no animal can do. We can use our intelligence to be even more innovative in kindness and love than even a child can. We don’t have to use our minds just for our desires and fears.

A word of encouragement, a merciful viewpoint can change someone’s life, which softens part of the earth.  If cynicism is in your nature, then looking for understanding can do more than involvement in any cause or word.

Where To Add Meaning:

To save the world is not possible. Dictators have controlled humans throughout history, and there were no perfect realities. Democracies and relationships are messy. People are selfish. You can add to the messiness caused by human nature, or you can choose a life of kindness and understanding, a life of purpose.

Whatever you do, whether raising children or working in an office or both, you can take kindness with you. Understanding doesn’t hide in the halls of a college or monastery.  It’s personal and lowly. Meaning isn’t only found in a proposal or career achievement, but it shines the brightest in the smallest and darkest spaces in everyday living. Find new ways to love, write down things you could try, and when you’re tired of loving, love again.

When love comes and goes, it’s a feeling; but when love becomes a choice, it is pure and true.

Coupon-Free

When I was younger, Costco and couponing were our way of life, our methods of survival. Couponing gained more attention in the past decade, with couponing moms and couponing sites. Some do at and enjoy it just as much as coloring or walking in nature, and so it is a hobby for them. Hobbies are always the exception.  For most of us, it is not a hobby.

I value a pristine look and clean shelves, and I often encourage people, if they can afford to, to buy the smallest that is reasonable. Don’t fall into the trap of sales or coupons. Anything that takes longer than three months for me to get through seems excessive, but for each family, it’s different. For most families, especially with many members, six months to a year’s worth can be reasonable, especially with a basement. Anything more than that, aside from cans and toiletries, the item has deteriorated significantly in quality, especially natural items.

Actions to Take:

Really consider first, what you need for your family? Six months of toiletries and a little bit of emergency supplies in the basement? What do you want out of life? More space, mobility, autonomy, and less labels or less trips to the store?

Also, cut down on disposables. The less disposables you need, the less trips to the store and the less backup.

Then consider everything you like to store, consider whether it would be the end of the world if you ran out of it. For most items, you don’t even need one backup because if I run out of hair conditioner, toilet paper, or a shower curtain, nothing is lost. Very few things are crucial to not run out of: shampoo/soap, Q-tips (for me), toilet paper. Nothing should be kept in backup if it isn’t a big loss if you run out of it for a week or two before a store trip. All grocery stores will have that item that is crucial for living.

Why Do Companies Send Out Coupons?

1. Brand recognition.  The first reason is the obvious: They want their name brand in your house, even if it’s just on a slip of paper. They want you and everyone in your house to consider their brand. A lot of coupons are for items that we wouldn’t ordinarily pick if performance were the only consideration.

They want to remind you of their brand, if you have already consumed the product in the past; people like names/brands they recognize, which is why big-name companies have an advantage over any small brand and which is why you get coupons tailored to your tastes when a store can track your purchases (through a store card).

2.  Buy more.  Most of the time, coupons are for sizes you wouldn’t originally buy. Buy one, get one free is common, and most food coupons are for a size that is hard to get through. Usually with condiments, I get the smallest size since I rarely use them, for instance, and there are no coupons with that size. For fast food, you often need to buy two of something.

3.  Advertisement for children.  They are hoping you will re-buy their product, and because of decision fatigue, most people will. This is good mainly because the brand will now be advertised in your home indefinitely. (To curb this, you can go label-free on most things.) No longer are the pieces of paper in the form of coupons advertising the brand, but now bottles are billboards for it. If they can get you to get a certain brand of yogurt or cleaning product in your home, your child will grow up with that brand for the next decade. Then when your kid moves out on their own, they will be loyal to those brands because humans prefer what they can recognize. This is why people are kinder in judging friends, than strangers.

Down to even the condiments in our fridge, most of them are brands our parents used or brands we saw on television or brands that have bought the most eye-level position in the grocery store. It is not necessarily the best condiment or a condiment with good ingredients, but it is what feels familiar or what feels like home. It is the easiest to recognize.

Benefits of Being Coupon-Free:

1. Autonomy.  No brand loyalty.  Most eco-friendly brands do not have a line of great products; you have to go between different brands. For instance, I am not ending up with products with coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, or another natural ingredient that would clog my skin.  I can get exactly what I’m looking for.

2.  No scissors. There is not a time I trim a coupon, so no more scissors when checking the mail!

3.  No processing mail or build-up. Because of automatic bill pay and no coupons/magazines, sorting mail is instantaneous.

4.  E-coupons.  I still get the savings where it counts: 20 and 30% coupons that come through email.  

5. A clean aesthetic. Coupons are not aesthetically pleasing to ever look at. Never having to see one or store one is a load off.  A lot of people in minimalism do like a clean look.

6. No organizer!   One less item!

7.  No guilt.  No forgetting to take or use a coupon at the fast food restaurant or store. Unless you’re a coupon maven, even if you’re organized, it is so easy to forget. Also, no wondering if there are other sites you should be checking or other stores you should be shopping for better deals. No dividing trips up to multiple stores!

8. No buying more than necessary. Coupons want to get more in your door, so they have advertisement in your home for longer and can become more familiar. A lot of coupons require a certain size of mayo, salsa, and a certain amount of shampoo. Same with buying at Costco: Consider how long it will take to get through the Costco shampoo. If it takes longer than six months, reconsider.

9. Encourages online buying. I can clip a coupon with a click on Amazon, and I can use coupons by email for other sites. I am saving a trip and gas money, and I still get to save.

10. Checking out in-store is quick without cash and without coupons.

11. A health boost. I can choose each item or restaurant based on its ingredients and performance instead of price. Most of the brands that offer little coupons are for fast foods or shampoos/conditioners that would dry out my hair.

12. No sorting through coupons to clear out the ones that expire.

13. Minimal waste and maximum enjoyment. I minimize, and then I stick to the items I’ve been using for years. Then I don’t have to push through a brand that isn’t panning out.

Minimalism is about focusing on quality over quantity. I buy very little beauty products and toiletries regularly. I would imagine I spend the same as a regular American woman that clips coupons, but I just own less and have quicker shopping trips. Minimalism can serve poverty, but there is nothing lacking in minimalism.

This Does Not Work For:

Families like my childhood family that need coupons to make ends meet.  Again, all tips need to be personalized.  For some, living with cash is a way to save more money or a way to feel more secure.  Personalize everything for your priorities. There is no shame to the mechanisms we need and use for survival.  However, even if you currently have to use coupons, don’t get convinced into buying more than you need.

On the flip side, there is also no shame in not saving every possible dollar, and prioritizing time, aesthetic, or efficiency instead. Growing up poor, you can almost feel guilty for your choices, that you should be eating everything on your plate, that you should save possessions just in case, or that you should be buying the most affordable, but these were mechanisms for survival, but these methods may not be serving you now maybe.

A Luxury to Consider:

My dad used to tell me that one day you won’t have to deliver boxes and break your back like me, because one day you will go to college and have a better life.  In a way, you know your kids can have an even better future than you, so it’s good to let them know early that luxury is not only addition, but also can be found in elimination.  If your kids grow up like me, there is no room for affording anything, except for bills, possessions, and food, so you tend to only make room to afford those categories as an adult, by habit.   But services, experiences, and elimination are just as nice to afford than almost all possessions, and they make living minimally easier.

Not couponing is a luxury, but it’s one of the luxuries I recommend the highest.

Peace of Mind: Coping Mechanisms

trauma

In traumatic circumstances while younger, children develop ways to deal with instability, lack of affection, and fear in verbal or physical abuse from family, because it is not healthy for humans to live with a constant elevated heart rate or to feel unloved.  For the most part, children cannot think about whether these mechanisms will serve them in the long-term.  Children and animals are vulnerable and grab on to whatever is most natural for them, and children will take these methods into adulthood, even into situations that may not present fear, just to be on the safe side.

We pick up these coping mechanisms from media, from examples in our own home or school (especially watching how parents cope with stress), and from our own personality and nature. Personality and individual nature is why you can see kids from the same family cope with stress differently, one by letting people walk all over them or avoiding confrontation at all costs (lying), and the other by trying to control others or being combative.  Neither kid chose their individual personality, but under great stress often continue to give in to their own nature.

Here are examples of negative coping mechanisms, that make people feel good, that we develop in response to stress or fear. Most develop in adolescence and are taken throughout adulthood, even when they no longer serve.

Possible negative coping mechanisms:

1. spending, speeding, unsafe sex, overeating, moving a relationship too quickly – impulsiveness
2. addiction (alcohol, prescription, tobacco, drugs) – which often exacerbate the other tendencies
3. self-harm, inviting or enjoying pain, seeking to control pain
4. codependency, a heightened fear of abandonment and loneliness
5. acting out (violence, anger, controlling), finding enjoyment or relief when someone suffers or when disciplining, being insensitive toward others
6. lying (to avoid confrontation, abandonment, or shame)
7. idealizing the future, people, causes – switching goals or changing frequently
8. seeking attention (trolling, provoking, constant depressing statuses) – provoking or unloading how you really feel on random people
9. complaining, gossiping (putting people down), mean jokes especially about people that hurt you
10. distrusting people, paranoia, and worry
11. pride, arrogance – putting others down, cynicism
12. constant violent or depressive music, inviting down moods because it feels familiar or more real and stable, self-sabotaging
13. being late, not following through, not keeping secrets
14. refusing help from others, trying not to burden others with your problems
15. getting lost in daydreaming or media constantly
16. overthinking and all-or-nothing thinking

A Better Future:

I am not putting down people that cope with life any way they know how, as it would be hypocritical and people do what they feel they have to or what they’ve learned.  To get rid of all negative coping mechanisms may be impossible, especially with mental illness, but these can be greatly minimized. You have to ask yourself: Is this the life I want?  You may not be able to control how you feel, but if you recognize patterns, you can better control how you see things and how you act.  Do you want a healthy life, or just healthy outwardly?  Do you want to heal from instability through childhood or lovers, or do you want to possibly hurt others by not working through negative patterns?

If you are close enough to someone who is self-destructive or very depressed/anxious, you should encourage them to go to therapy or get to the root of where their habits come from in a loving way (asking questions, not judging). Therapy helps them find patterns and helps them to be completely honest, talking to someone that encourages them to be themselves and to be healthy.

Most of the people we date that hurt us or the parents that have hurt us do so because they were coping with life as well, any way they knew.  They might have been shown to withhold affection or to give it out to everybody, and they were coping with their own instability.  But if you can deal with things positively, your life will change in big and small ways (true mind and body health),  and you can be as kind as possible to others, who are on their own difficult journey. You can live in peace, as you’ve always wanted to live, and caring – being able to understand and forgive others from the heart instead of to self-placate.

Possible positive ways to cope with stress:

1. listening to inspirational or calm music
2. eating foods easy to digest (breads and sugars can affect mood) – smoothies, humus, crackers or rice instead of bread, water instead of soda, anything other than a candy bar
3. getting massages
4. meditating or praying
5. going out in nature or bringing nature indoors (plants, wood, water)
6. letting go of perfection and worry, living innocently and in a kind way as you once did as a kid before you were hurt
7. laughing – funny movies, comedic friends or professionals, watching animals or kids
8. going to therapy or talking to someone who you can trust (that will not gossip and preferably unbiased)
9. investing in stable relationships daily (people that you can trust, that will not push cynicism and fear further), i.e., making a meal, buying/planing a trip they’d like, or even just paying a compliment
10. encouraging yourself to be more understanding and less cynical – blocking political posts on Facebook, not idealizing any one cause
11. showing extra attention to those who are vulnerable (those hurting mentally, physically ill, animals, kids, elderly)
12. putting time into your purpose to help others (whether volunteer or a job)
13. finding ways to encourage or compliment, curbing gossip and negativity in yourself
14. practicing mindfulness (constantly reminding yourself to be present), especially while eating, taking a hot shower, walking in nature
15. petting a cat, touching soft things (blankets, pillows)
16. embracing gratitude – happiness without gratitude does not exist, welcoming the natural ups and downs of living and finding peace in understanding why people are the way they are
17. choosing minimalism – less to overwhelm, more thinking, less distraction from who you really are and what your purpose is

cope

Pragmatic Minimalism: Why Product Reviews?

When I was younger, I hung so many of my teen hopes on certain products:  Clean & Clear scrubs, Smackers lip glosses.  I bought things because of the packaging or the subtle advertisement I read about in magazines.  I didn’t trust straightforward advertisement from television or clearly paid ad pages in a magazine, but I did trust the articles: Ten Hot Trends to Try Now!  I love hot tips.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that magazine was not just entertainment; it was primarily a way to sell ideas or items.  How many possible household items or tips could one person possibly need?  I just wanted a summary of what is the best of a category, not the best right now.  Give me something someone uses every day, not something great tried once because it was sent in the mail.  I wanted the tried and the true.

A New Age:

The day that Amazon came to prominence was one of the best days.  Fewer shopping trips, fewer misses.  It was not the convenience of Amazon primarily, but it was the concept of user reviews.  For this reason, I have always loved All Recipes, Amazon, and Makeup Alley.  No longer did I have to dig and dig.  I could start at the four-star baseline.

I have always been passionate about thoroughly reviewing things (the good, the bad, and the quirks).   Sponsorships on YouTube may get in the way of complete transparency, as they did on Amazon.  So Amazon now does not allow, in just the past month, anymore reviews if a product is sent to a person to try.   It depends on the person obviously; some value honesty and reputation more than money.

YouTubers:

YouTubers make money in three ways besides making their own merchandise: through linking what they love themselves (Amazon usually) or sponsorships (company gives a product directly) and through the ads that run in the beginning of a video (Google).

Linking the items you use all the time offers autonomy.  You can review what you love and you can review anything you want however you want.  This is why it’s the most honest and best method.

I have not accepted sponsorship offers yet, and I would be wary of taking them without clear delineation.  If a product is sent to you, you are expected to give a good review or just not review it at all.

With Amazon affiliate links, there’s almost no conflict of interest.  It’s as a friend is telling you about something they love.  The only concern would be focusing on the items that you can buy online. It doesn’t mean the review is less true, just that the focus of things people try are going to be online-centric.  In my opinion, this is great for minimalism because less time is spent in the store.  The easiest way to end up consuming things we don’t need is to spend gas money, energy, and time to shop because then we want something to show for all the effort.

Minimalism and Reviews:

Many minimalists value a minimal amount of waste, and a lot of waste is had when products don’t pan out.  Wasted time and gas to return, wasted time to decide what to donate and drive, and then waste in the landfill.  Most of the things we donate never gets resold or passed down.   With product reviews, especially from a friend, we can hit the mark most of the time.

Having things that work well means that minimalism becomes more logical than challenging:  Even though the items are few, they are great.  Therefore, minimalism can work well for more people because it then has almost all upsides.  This is why I think it’s important to mention what works.

Also, talking about items we truly love and talking about our other interests outside of minimalism welcomes everyone.  A lot of minimalist videos are made with those already on the minimalist path in mind.  There is not much to change there, just some minor tweaks, but to talk about the best of items or ideas invites everybody in. A minimalist lifestyle truly can fit every personality, but most people haven’t heard of minimalism outside of tiny homes or Konmari.  Minimalism has the tendency to evoke the image of a traveler or somebody struggling to get by – instead of a beautifully curated home, efficient and enjoyable to clean, rest, and watch movies in.  Minimalism is not just poverty.  There is no lack in minimalism; we can color it in.

If I were a traveler, I would be passionate about airline and room deals, but I have always loved to be at home with the people I love.  So in this, the items I bring in have extra meaning and I hold them to a higher standard.  It’s something that I love to do — making the home more efficient and warm — and it’s something that everyone can benefit from, even the inspirational travelers.  One day they will need curtain rings or rechargeable batteries, and we will be there; and if ever I need a travel deal, I know where to go.  In this way, the minimalist community is well-rounded.  What was once alternative is diverse.  We are inclusive, which, in the end, is the spirit of minimalism: kindness and rich relationships.