We’re in the homestretch of 2016, and along with the shorter days and falling temperatures comes a mountain of year-end stress. Pressure to fill our calendar with holiday gatherings, project deadlines, doctor’s appointments, and tax preparations. Attempts to throw a hail mary at our goals for the year before time runs out. As if these obligations vanish on January 1st, 2017. We’re learning that is certainly not the case.
My family went hard during the holidays when I was a child. The decorations, the parties, the food, and, most of all, the gifts. It pains me to imagine all the time and money spent on holiday gifts that I honestly can’t recall now. This isn’t to say that giving gifts is inherently bad – it just should not be the primary focus of the holiday. Years down the line the things we remember aren’t how many gifts we received, but the memories we shared.
The past three weeks have felt like a bombardment of distractions. There’s been a constant humming of noise, just in our periphery, that makes meeting our obligations that much harder. Maybe it’s the holiday season and all that goes with it, or perhaps we’re especially busy trying to juggle competing demands. So many things need our attention, but we only have so much attention to give. As a result, some things may have slipped through the cracks. We’re coming out of this fog now, but the battle against noise is far from won.
The holiday season could be a touchy affair this year. Tensions are high, people are divided, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the coming months. Some are still struggling to come to terms with their feelings, which is certainly understandable. They want time to process and heal. Everyone does so in their own way, and in many cases that means confiding in the people closest to us.
But I’ve seen folks saying that they want to avoid holiday gatherings this year. They want to prevent conflict and argument by steering clear of family and friends who think differently. Bitterness, animosity, and fear has made people retreat into their respective corners. The pain of confronting our differences eclipses our need for community.
This weekend the Rustic Walks household settled into our new apartment. We moved from our home of three years to a new place just down the street. It was a whirlwind of packing and schlepping, but we made it across the finish line. There’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty: decluttering was the best thing we did for ourselves this year.
We went into 2016 knowing we would be moving, so we took every opportunity to get rid of as much clutter as possible. We cleaned out our closet, threw packing parties just for fun, and thought hard about what we truly needed for our new home.
In a recent post about Minimalism vs Frugality, Ms. Rustic Walks mentioned that just under a year ago, we discovered who are likely the first two people anyone researching this stuff would come across: The Minimalists. Their message sat well with us: less is more. We found that we had a good amount of things, but they were not improving our life anymore.
For years, I have had an aversion to clutter. Keeping my life in order physically meant less work for my future self when looking for something, or needing to run out the door. Meanwhile, Ms. RW moved around a lot and had to keep her possessions to a minimum. We both already had a predisposition to curating our possessions, but we needed extra motivation to get rid of things we no longer needed.
Nine months ago we discovered The Minimalists and fell headfirst into intentional living. The philosophy appealed to our habit of binge cleaning our apartment every few weeks. Clutter stresses us out, especially when it takes over our tiny apartment. We knew decluttering would help us confront our weak spots (like the black hole that is our closet), as well as get rid of useless junk that doesn’t bring value to our life. What we didn’t expect was the impact minimalism would have in another area: our finances.
Lately we’ve noticed something strange. At least it seems strange to us. A lot of folks seem to be staring down at their phones. Like all the time. It’s increasingly common to see people watching YouTube videos on the subway rather than reading a book or newspaper. People walk into oncoming traffic because they’re busy checking their email. Selfies and tweets get round-the-clock coverage on cable news networks.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these occurrences. Social media is an important source of communication for millions of people. But the fact that the average American spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook is rather alarming, especially since there’s hundreds of social media apps out there. Are we the only ones that think this is weird? Have we gone full-throttle minimalist?!
Take a look at your wallet. Is it packed full of cash, credit cards, business cards, I.D. cards, pictures and more? Do you have a dozen or more items on your key chain? Are your pockets stuffed when you head out for the day?
I cannot stand the feeling of reaching into my pockets and not being able to pull something out with ease. It’s cumbersome, and it makes me feel like I’m lugging around much more than I need to. Because of this, a few years back, I went through everything I was carrying with me on a daily basis and really thought about if I actually needed it, or if it had just found a home in the stuff that I throw in my pockets each morning. Eventually my wallet went from a tri-fold to a bi-fold to a sleeve, and my keychain went from fourteen items to a mere five, of which I’m currently considering dropping down to two. …
The enigmatic “morning routine.” I am a firm believer that what you do in the morning sets the stage for the rest of the day. At that, I believe in the old mantra of “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It may be more or less disproven as a scientific thing, but psychologically, I think it gives me the boost I need to take on the day.
I used to think I was a so-called “night owl,” because that seemed to be what all the cool people were doing. The people I talked to online would be up into the wee hours of the night, so I figured I should be one of those people too. I ignored the fact that I felt awful every morning, shrugging it off as a part of the night owl complex. As it turns out, I was so miserable in the morning because I was a closet morning person.