[Transcript] Lakewood Public Library Author Talk: The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

Screen Shot 2020-08-28 at 6.10.51 PM

Hello readers! I recently recorded a Meet the Author talk at a local library. It was so much fun and I loved being able to add a little more about current events that obviously weren’t covered in the book that was published a little over a year ago.

You can watch the video here:

The audio is a little quiet, so it’s best watched with headphones (I got the best results watching on my phone), but I also wrote out a transcript in case you’re more of a reader than a viewer or if you miss any of the audio.

Check out the full transcript below, sans all my “um” noises as I checked my notes. (Ugh).

Title Card reads:
Caitlin Fisher
The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society that Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong
Lakewood Public Library

Hi, I’m Caitlin Fisher, the author of The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society that Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong.

I’m a local author, I live on the west side of Cleveland in West Park, and I have a bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Higher Education with a background in career counseling and marketing. We’ll talk about millennial job hopping later, it’s relevant. And I also write and teach about boundaries and emotional recovery after leaving an abusive marriage two years ago. So, a long and varied story like many millennials. 

About the book

I’m going to start off just by talking about how I got the idea for The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. It actually started as a blog post I wrote in 2016. I had been doing some research into emotional abuse, recovery, and trauma work. And I kept coming across the idea of gaslighting, which is a manipulation tactic where essentially you make people doubt their own perceptions or reality. So, they tell you their experience of something and you essentially say, “What, that’s crazy, that can’t be right.” 

The more I learned about this concept, the more I realized that’s sort of how we’ve been treating young people entering the workforce. So we were raised being told, you know, “if you work hard, you can do anything.” And then we leave college, or maybe we don’t go to college, and we’re putting in the work and working very hard, and we’re not getting anywhere. And the more noise we make about this, the more we’re told “That’s not really how it works, you’re being entitled.” 

And this book came from that. So after the blog post I turned it into a full length book, it’s got 12 chapters, and each chapter is titled “Millennials are Killing…” something or other. Topics range from the American Dream to Relationships and Marriage to the Economy. Anything we can be accused of destroying as dirty, entitled millennials, I tried to hit the highlights of. 

Why this book?

What I wanted to do with the book is not only address this concept of gaslighting, I wanted to validate what millennials have been through. I wanted to have space for those experiences and let people know that they’re relatable, they’re not unique and they’re not doing it wrong and messing it up, they’re not alone. There’s a mix of reassurance, unpacking why we’re being accused of being so entitled when we want basic human necessities, and then each chapter ends with practical advice to make sure you’re killing it, since we’re killing everything.

I also want to acknowledge privilege. I am a well-educated white person. I am queer but can pass for cis and straight, and that affords me a lot of privilege in society. Society is set up for people who look like me. So, as much as possible throughout the book, when I talk about concepts I know that not everyone views their experience in our society through the same lens that I did. So I try as much as possible to talk about how racism, classism, and ableism might affect people’s experiences throughout the book. Because I don’t just want to be speaking about my experiences, I want it to be relatable to as many people as possible. 

I am a millennial with baby boomer parents, so those are the experiences that I talk about a lot. I’ve gotten a little bit of commentary about how I skipped Gen X in the middle (Gen X is kind of used to it, unfortunately), but that’s not my lived experience. I can’t really speak to Gen X because I’m a millennial with boomer parents, so that’s what I’m writing about.  

Overall what I want people to take away from this book is that, one, they’re not alone in their struggles. Two, I want millennials to keep standing up and speaking out when they see that things aren’t right and aren’t fair. I love that about us, I love that we are pointing to problems in society and saying, “Hey, let’s maybe do something about that.” And three, it’s also a call for the generational blame game to stop with us. I want us to pave the way for Generation Z to come through and be as amazing as they’re already showing us they are. And so, I don’t want us to argue about the kids these days on TikTok and the Tide Pods and everything, because that’s just more in-fighting and it’s not helping us get where we want to go. 

Also, this is not a book that’s just for millennials. Obviously I’ve been talking about Gen Z a lot, and I think it could be a really helpful primer for them, especially as they’re finishing high school and entering college. And I’ve also had Gen X and Baby Boomer readers say that they’ve really loved it and appreciated the perspective it gave them about the millennial experience. 

How to read “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation”

So, just to get into the content of the book, I wrote it in such a way that you can read one chapter if that’s a certain topic that you’re interested in, or you can read through the whole book. It’s definitely a book you can take chapter by chapter, it doesn’t have an overall narrative that has to be read in order, but rather each chapter is its own unique section. 

Part 1: Millennials are Entitled, Disrespectful Punks

It’s divided into three parts. Part 1 is called “Millennials Are Entitled, Disrespectful Punks” and that section talks about the American Dream, difficult parent-child relationships once millennials enter adulthood and they’re starting to connect with their parents on that level, and the tension that can arise there, especially if we had difficult childhoods. There’s a chapter about the workforce and career path of millennials. Like I mentioned, there tends to be a little bit more job hopping and mix-and-match career building. And then there’s a chapter about the education system. 

I started the book off here because I think these are some of the biggest, most impactful claims that people make about millennials and about how we are up-ending the status quo, which I personally think is a good thing. 

The American Dream

The American Dream chapter really tackles that avocado toast headline, where it says “if millennials want to buy a house, they need to lay off the avocado toast.” So this chapter tackles the assumption that we can’t be home owners because we’re too busy spending frivolously on brunch. And I really address the structure of the “American Dream” — air quotes — and the fact that it’s really built on that idea that if you work hard you’ll achieve it. The American Dream being a stable career, retirement savings, a nice house, marriage and kids if you want that. But what’s sort of sinister about the American Dream is that if you tell everyone if you work hard you can achieve it, anybody who hasn’t achieved it, there’s this easy finger-pointing we can do to say that they’re obviously not working hard enough. 

And then millennials are coming in to ruin the day once again and they say, “How can we buy a home? It’s not the avocado toast, it’s student loans, it’s the fact that the minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, it’s the fact that we can’t afford rent and retirement and healthcare.” So we’ve started to see the American Dream fall apart around the edges. 

And we really need to acknowledge that the original American Dream is only accessible to a privileged few. People who can afford to go to college without too much debt, or no debt. People who don’t need to work two or three jobs to make a living. There’s definitely a lot of privilege involved in the American Dream and I think that millennials on the whole are realizing that and pointing it out. And so that gaslighting effect comes in when they say “Hey, this seems kind of messed up, maybe we should change the way we’re doing things,” and the establishment says, “We don’t talk about that, just keep working hard and you’ll get there, I promise.” And we’re starting to see that that’s not necessarily the truth. 

Millennial career paths and company culture

So, related to the American Dream is the career trajectory of millennials. So I’m going to speak a little bit about that workplace chapter. As I mentioned earlier, I have a bachelor’s in Psychology and then I went to grad school to work in Higher Education. I ended up doing purchasing and was doing freelance marketing also, and now I do full time marketing. So none of what I studied in college is necessarily relevant to what I do as a career now. And you find that a lot, I think, with millennials. 

So your classic career path for, let’s say, a baby boomer, is you get an entry level job, you put in time, you get a promotion, you put in time, you get another promotion, you put in the time, and then you retire comfortably at 65. Obviously not everybody, and obviously there are barriers and struggles across generations, but that’s your typical ladder — they call it the corporate ladder for a reason. 

And millennials are coming in and they are leaving jobs without putting in all that time because they want a better work life balance, they want a better culture fit.  And this is really forcing companies when they’re hiring new talent to consider what millennials want. Millennials now are basically adults under 40, so people are hiring millennials, and millennials want flexible hours, they want flex time so they can go to a doctor’s appointment, we really like remote work, which is now especially relevant in the COVID pandemic because we found out pretty quickly that most office work can be done from home without losing any productivity. So I think what we’re going to see post-COVID is that there will be a lot more companies offering remote work as a flexible perk when they’re hiring people, and that’s going to attract the millennials because we like that flexibility and we like the work life balance. You know, when you don’t have to get up super early to get ready and commute, and then commute home before you make dinner, you get a lot of hours in your day back that you can spend on things that make you happy, such as sleeping or having a hobby.

And we also want better paid parental leave when we have kids, better vacation time, wages that are more in line with the cost of living, and even union protections. And once again we say, “Hey, what about these things, they do them in other countries, they’re working, people seem really happy over there in those other countries,” and we’re again told, “No no, don’t talk about that, don’t question it, just keep working, you’ll get there.” And again it’s this cultural gaslighting. 

Just some stats out of the book, a 2014 study from Bentley University reported that millennials would take a pay cut of $7600 a year to take a job with a better work-life balance, better company culture, or that they felt was more purposeful. So, we don’t like work that just feels like droning along for somebody else’s dollar. We like work that makes us feel good about ourselves and the work that we do as well as what the company as the whole is doing. So we want to do work that we feel matters. And I think we’re going to see this also with Gen Z as they enter the workforce. 

So I think that companies are going to have to adapt as we continue. Because if you can’t lure in the talent with money when you have a bad company culture, you’re going to have to adapt your company culture. Which I think is a good thing! 

I do resume and cover letter writing and help people find jobs as a side business (because millennials have to have four businesses, I guess), and I’ve noticed that job descriptions that are being posted by companies now have a really big focus on what it’s like to work there and what the culture is like. So we’re seeing a lot of “one Friday a month we do a team outing,” and they’re really trying to showcase the ways that they value their workers, and so that’s going to attract the millennials that want that sort of more fun, more purposeful, team oriented work. Which I think is exciting! 

The education system – do we need college?

And then, on your way to those jobs we need to talk about education. And the education chapter not only talks about college but starts in preschool. Your school experience can add a lot to your struggle or can add a lot to your privilege, which is important to recognize. 

So a big question that comes up is do you need to go to college to be successful? What does it mean to be successful? Does it mean having a degree, does it mean having a certain income, does it mean being debt free, does it mean the American Dream? Only you can decide what success means for you, which is good and also sometimes a struggle, because you look into the void and you don’t know what success means to you and there’s a little existential crisis sometimes, but I think that college is not always necessary. I think we put a lot of pressure on very young people to decide what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, and at 18 if somebody’s not sure they want to go to college, I think it’s irresponsible to force them into debt because college is just part of the process. 

I think it’s completely valid if you want to take a couple years off to decide what you want to do, or if you want to go to trade school instead, or if you want to go to school part time, or you end up in your 40s and decide you’re ready to get a degree now. So however you want to do it, whenever you decide you want to go to college, I think it’s really important that we don’t put so much pressure on “the way you’re supposed to do it.” Which I think is pretty important. And you’ll even have people making their own businesses, whether or not they went to college. There’s all sorts of lists of “careers you can get without a college degree” and that’s super valid. And that’s what I explore in the education chapter. 

Part 2: Millennials are Destroying Society

Next up in Part 2, Millennials Are Destroying Society, there’s a few chapters but what I really want to talk about is the chapter about the economy. Because there’s headlines like “Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds?” and “Millennials aren’t saving for retirement” and “Millennials have killed the mall” and I once again think, that’s a little unfair to blame all of that on the millennials. 

We don’t need malls because all those stores are online, and we don’t buy diamonds because we have found out that diamonds can be very unethical. And also, we have to pay rent and healthcare, so we don’t have a lot of diamond money laying around. So we can’t afford those luxury items — it goes back to the minimum wage issue, goes back to housing costs, goes back to wealth in general. 

The latest numbers from the Federal Reserve say that baby boomers have 56.8% of the wealth in the US, and millennials have 3.4%. So, were not buying diamonds or (insert industry) because we don’t have the funds to be doing that. We’re basically just trying to survive. Especially during COVID right now. 

Living paycheck to paycheck

This chapter also tackles poverty and the poverty line. Millennials are the most impoverished generation, as of 2016 data from the Pew Research Center. I could not find more recent data, I tried, but that was the last big report that came out. So in 2016, we had 5.3 million millennial households under the poverty line in the US. Obviously this affects other generations as well, there were 5 million baby boomer households and 4.2 million Gen X households under the poverty line also. 

And it’s important to talk about this in relation to that American Dream, in relation to the economy and the workforce, because while we do have security measures in place to help people under the poverty line, like food stamps, housing assistance, daycare assistance, things like that so that people can go to work and work hard for that American Dream, you can get a 25 cent pay raise that loses you eligibility for your benefits and then you’re worse off than before you got a raise. So our systems are set up to keep poor people poor. And the more we point that out the more everybody says “Hey we don’t talk about that, be quiet, you’re starting to sound a little crazy and entitled” — gaslighting. 

So definitely my intention here is to let people know, again, that they’re not crazy for saying “This is my experience and I’m working hard and it’s not getting me anywhere.” You know, the expectation is that that should make you successful and if you’re not successful by American Dream standards, and you think you’re doing something wrong and other people think you’re doing something wrong. So we’re creating this us vs. them thing of “Well, people who don’t have these measures of success must not be working hard enough, and those things will never happen to me because I work hard.” 

But 40% of Americans are one missed paycheck away from the poverty line. We wouldn’t know what to do, we’re paycheck to paycheck in this culture. And we’re so much closer to being homeless or jobless than we are to becoming billionaires, but if the billionaires keep us arguing amongst ourselves then we don’t notice the billionaires telling us not to worry and that everything will be alright. 

So I am apparently slowly radicalizing people with this. Or just pointing out that there’s issues in society and it’s okay to talk about them, and we should talk about them and we should make change. 

Part 3: Millennials Are Just Making Stuff Up Now

So that’s my hard hitter from Part 2. And then in Part 3, Millennials Are Just Making Stuff Up Now, I talk about gender identity, the Me Too movement, the relationship escalator, how we’re killing marriage by not necessarily going dating-marriage-babies, we’re turning all that on its head. Millennial parenting, which I had to consult with millennial parents about to make sure I knew what I was talking about. And then just sort of a call to action, once again, to stop turning it around and blaming it on the next generation when they show up and they start making this noise too. 

Millennials and Gen Z activism

I want millennials to cheer on Gen Z, which so far we’ve really been doing a good job of. Transitioning out of talking about the book and coming into the world of 2020, there’s so much going on since I wrote this that I really want to talk about. And that’s especially the fact that millennials and Generation Z are so active politically and in activism and advocacy work. 

We’re seeing a demand for more transparency from brands and businesses. We’re seeing that millennials and Gen Z consumers expect brands to stand up for social justice issues. And we expect to see more about their business practices. 

Nike did an ad for Black Lives Matter that said, “Just this once, don’t do it,” as in, don’t turn your back on racism, don’t look away. And the millennials and Gen Z were like, “Cool, well we buy Nike now” and that got them a lot of brand affinity. It’s a good business move now for brands to be chasing that millennial and Gen Z approval because those are the fastest growing generations with buying power. 

We also are voting with our dollar, shopping locally and with small businesses, trying to keep local businesses afloat especially during COVID. I know a lot of my friends are not eating out as much because we’re tipping higher when we do eat out. So with that restaurant budget, we’re trying to keep restaurants that are locally owned afloat more because we don’t know what it’s going to look like by the time whatever’s happening with COVID is done happening. 

We’re also seeing millennials and Gen Z, and the older generations too, purchase from Black-owned companies and crafters, and queer-owned companies and crafters. We’re saying “I want to support these communities that are typically marginalized and held back from businesses” so we’re spending what money we do have in ways that align with our morals, which I love about us and Gen Z. 

I specifically want to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, just because that is so important to discuss in 2020. We’ve seen protests happening since May and it is now August and they’re still happening daily, they’ve been happening across the world. And there was some data from Y Pulse that came out this June, that said 50% of Gen Z and millennials have participated in Black Lives Matter protests or awareness, and 69% think that brands and companies should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, going back to that Nike story. 

Business Insider also reported that 90% of Gen Z supports the Black Lives Matter movement, 77% of them have been to a protest, and 62% are willing to be arrested at a protest. So Generation Z is not holding back, they are showing up, and I love them for it, and I’m so excited and can’t wait to hear more about what they’re doing. 

But that really starts with us as the millennial generation. We’ve been recognizing and pointing out “this isn’t right, we need to change the way our society is set up” and everybody older than us is saying “No, just pipe down, just put your head down and work hard and you’ll get there.” We need to keep saying that we need change, and then we need to give Gen Z the space to show up and have that 90% of them supporting really important justice efforts. So we can work with them or we can turn around and be our crotchety elders and I’d really rather we be the awesome generation that I know we are. 

Get a copy!

Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, Target, or anywhere else books are sold!

Or borrow from the Lakewood Public Library (or any local library) as a hard copy or virtually via Hoopla, Libby, or your favorite library app. 


Can You Change Your Life for Only $12?

3_9 gaslighting

“This book validates everything that myself and other millennials have been through. The advice is solid and will definitely help anyone with surviving what the world has to offer.”

“This is a book for modern PEOPLE, not just millennials. Understanding humanity is a great and daunting process. This book provided me deep understanding on multiple levels and subjects, a priceless commodity.”

“This book is a poignant look at what it’s actually like to be a millennial. We’re blamed for everything when in reality everything we’ve inherited is imploding or has already imploded. Mx. Fisher is an excellent writer making points that you may not have thought of and giving tips to potentially improve your situation. I’d recommend this book to people of all generations, not just millennials – perspective is helpful for everyone!”

These are a few of the humbling book reviews I’ve received on Amazon.

And I have a favor to ask you.

Would you take a $11.59 chance on my book and see if the advice within helps change the way you look at the world?

I got my book deal in the same ten day span that I left my abusive marriage and lost my stepdad to lung cancer. I was not in a mental space to be selling and promoting my book.

Now that I am two years out, and coming up on one year since it was published, I am finally in the mindset to really focus on getting my book into the hands of people that need it.

If you haven’t read it, I am asking you to buy it. It’s less than $12 on Amazon, even cheaper if you get the Kindle version. It’s available on Audible so you can use a credit. bit.ly/GaslightingMillennials

If you have read it, I am asking you to leave a five star review on Amazon so more people can find it. If you’re not a wordsmith, just leave a rating without a review.

If you have read and reviewed, please ask your local library and bookstore if they can stock it.

Buy a copy for a friend who crossed your mind while you read it.

Buy a copy for your parents to give them some context on how you navigate the world.

Buy a copy for your friend who needs resume and cover letter help (there’s a really really good how-to guide in the chapter about the workplace).

If you have a blog or social media following, please recommend it by title and share what you love about it and why your readers will love it too. I can send you a review excerpt packet or a review copy if you aren’t able to buy one.

If you know someone with a blog, social following, podcast, etc. who might want to interview me or receive a review copy, please put me in touch.

Share this blog post and add your own thoughts about why you loved the book.

One million people read the original blog post when it went viral. That is one million people who resonated with the message that millennials aren’t to blame for the state of society. Help me get this book into the hands and ears of people who need to hear that they’re not screwups.

The 9 Books That Defined My 2019

Part of being a good writer is being a good reader

After what can only be described as voracious reading of fiction and fantasy as a child, I lost reading for pleasure as an adult and switched only to “productive” reading. Self help. Motivation. Business building. Personal development.

After several years, I let myself read fiction again. I read Outlander for a book club and consumed the rest of the series, my childhood appetite for fantasy rushing back.

I switch back and forth now in a relatively 50/50 split between stuff to make my brain smarter and stuff to make my brain relax and have fun.

They’re both necessary for me to be the best writer I can.

These are the books that defined my 2019

  1. The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner 

This book was the single most important book of the year for me, and honestly for every single person in the world. Go read this book. Caroline’s work changed me. I finally stopped hurting myself in the name of weight loss and thinness. I understood fatphobia and diet culture in a way I never had before. This book may have literally saved my life.

The F*ck It Diet provided the paradigm shift I needed to see the truth about my body and the fact that it’s okay to exist in it.

2. Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Ph.D.

Before and after TFID arrived at my doorstep, I decided to read up on other body positive books. Health at Every Size helped solidify what Caroline Dooner had already begun to teach me: my body isn’t inherently unhealthy because it’s fat. I remember calling my sister in a rage while I was listening to it, angry at the lies that had been told to me as fact about my body for 30 years. Everyone should read this book.

3. Dietland by Sarai Walker

I heard about Dietland on the Unladylike podcast and felt compelled to read it right away. This fiction novel follows the life of Plum, a lifelong dieter who is saving up for weight loss surgery. She goes on a whirlwind adventure and makes a bunch of new feminist friends, while the narrative weaves back and forth between Plum and a series of murders that appear to implicate a new friend. It was a delightful read (even with the murdery bits) that has stuck with me all year. Highly recommend.

4. Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.

Like TFID helped me see the ways I was stuck in diet culture self-talk, Getting Past Your Past helped me see the ways my trauma manifests in repeated patterns linked through a lifetime of unprocessed memories. Francine Shapiro, who died in June this year, developed the EMDR method of trauma processing therapy. Just reading the book helped me start viewing my trauma in a new light, and entering EMDR therapy has helped me process my eating disorder, my abusive marriage, and traumatic memories from childhood emotional abuse.

5. The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher 

In 2016, I wrote a blog post about an idea I couldn’t get out of my head: The idea that millennials as a whole were being systematically gaslit by older generations and the capitalist systems at play in our country. In 2019, I published my debut book of the same title. Each chapter highlights an aspect of society that our generation has supposedly undermined and destroyed, with advice on how to keep killin’ it on a regular basis.

Maybe some parts of society suck and deserve to be dismantled.

6. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk 

Shockingly, this book is also about trauma processing. In The Body Keeps the Score, the author discusses the physical ways that trauma manifests in the body as chronic pain and illness. It turns out that neglect, emotional abuse, and other traumas can have lasting effects not only on the brain but on the entire human body. It was eye opening to learn about and helped me get a diagnosis for my fibromyalgia this year when I acknowledged the physical pain I had been ignoring in my body.

7. Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey 

When I was married, I read the first three books of a great sci-fi series, The Expanse. And then I didn’t read any books or watch any television that I had ever associated with him for eighteen months. No Expanse. No superhero shows. Not even the shows I had enjoyed by myself when I was with him. I was on media lockdown.

But in 2019 I met a friend who also loved The Expanse and he encouraged me to get back into the series. Reading Cibola Burn, the fourth novel in the series, was my first contact with husband-related media in a year and a half, and despite my fears it felt safe. I’ve continued to work through the rest of the books in the series this year and I’m all caught up on the TV adaptation as well.

8. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I have a list of things I’m going to do with my life, and they are: foster kids, rescue dogs, buy a house, and hug Brené Brown. Her work on vulnerability and shame helped me realize that I’m worthy of love and belonging right now. Brené Brown also taught me to play and have fun (which helps me read fiction and schedule socializing with friends). Whatever way you can get your hands on any of her content, you should do so immediately.

9. The Animorphs Series by K. A. Applegate 

Re-reading this series that I adored as a child is doing some kind of healing in me that I don’t fully understand. I am amazed that I still remember major plot points and even lines of dialogue decades after reading them once or twice each in elementary school between fourth and sixth grade.

As an added bonus, reading them has strengthened my resolve to start a young adult science fiction series. I’ve allowed myself to return to the parts of YA sci-fi that I loved as a kid, and my brain just tossed a fully formed idea at me in the shower, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

My 2020 reading list

Looking over my 2019 list, I realize that I need to start branching out. Last year was about survival, this year was about laying the groundwork to heal, and next year is about becoming an improved version of myself. This will mean some of the same type of reading (and writing!) as 2019, but I also feel a deep need to read from more diverse authors.

I want to help all people, not just people who look like me and have similar experiences. And I am aware that I haven’t always examined my privilege closely and critically. In 2020 I want to open myself up to listen to the experiences of others so that I can be more aware.

Simply put: It’s time for me to stop focusing on reading work from white people.

Rather than continue to ask people of color to educate us about how we can better understand their experiences and be allies, we have to do our own work. Here are some excellent titles I’ve started researching that are on my 2020 reading list for a start:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

How do you measure a year?

In books, in words, in reconnecting with characters you thought you left behind a long time ago.

The Simple Bundle: 17 Minimalist ebooks available this weekend only!

I write more about social issues, trauma recovery, and self care these days than my original days of decluttering and minimizing my space, but I’m still a minimalist at heart and in practice so I am thrilled to share with you an absolute steal of a deal if you’re an aspiring minimalist!

The Simple Bundle is available this Labor Day weekend only, August 31 – September 2, 2019. And it’s only $37 for a $225 total value of 17 ebooks and online courses! Check out the offerings below:

  1. Joshua Becker — Clutterfree with Kids eBook

  2. The Minimalists — Essential eBook

  3. Patrick Rhone — Enough eBook

  4. Francine Jay — Miss Minimalist eBook

  5. No Sidebar — 30 Days to a Simpler Life Email Course

  6. Courtney Carver — Microbusiness Email Course

  7. Erica Layne — 9 Hard Truths about Clutter You Need to Hear eBook

  8. Tsh Oxenreider — One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler

  9. Pia Edberg — The Cozy Life eBook

  10. Anthony Ongaro — Break The Twitch eBook

  11. Sandy Kreps — Fresh Start eBook

  12. Colin Wright — Considerations eBook

  13. Simplify Magazine — The Declutter Issue

  14. Kathy Gottberg — RightSizing: Reinventing Retirement eBook

  15. Courtney Livingston — The Smart Girl’s Guide To Surviving Her Twenties eBook

  16. Allie Casazza — The Ultimate Guide to An Uncluttered Life

  17. Minimalism Co. — The Minimalism Challenge eBook

Simplify your life and your space by building consistent habits around a minimalist mindset. While there’s no single how-to that’s perfect for everyone, I am sure there’s at least one resource in this bundle that’s just what you need!

Here’s the link again if you want to buy: The Simple Bundle 

Read more from me!

Interested in supporting Born Again Minimalist? You can sign up as a supporter on my Patreon page for $1 per month, follow me on Medium and clap for my stories, follow and engage with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and buy my book!

Book Review: The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

minimalist home

Photo from becomingminimalist.com 

Everybody has the aha! moment that starts their journey to minimalism. For me, it was a basement full of stuff at my mom’s house after my first divorce. For some, it’s knowing there’s a pizza cutter somewhere in the kitchen but being absolutely unable to find it in all the chaos. For Joshua Becker, it was when a neighbor mentioned that people don’t actually have to have so much stuff when Joshua was mid-garage-cleanout.

Joshua is the mind behind the Becoming Minimalist blog and the author of Clutterfree with Kids; Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life; The More of Less; and the freshly published as of December 18 The Minimalist Home. I received an advance copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. So here we go, my honest review of The Minimalist Home.

First, it’s similar to other minimalism and decluttering books. But everyone has their own spin on the approach. Where Marie Kondo suggests touching everything to check for joy, category by category, and Dana K. White outlines the way you can declutter whether you have five minutes or five hours, Joshua Becker has a blended approach. His decluttering method goes room by room and follows the same basic steps each time, but what I really found differentiating in his book was the checklist for each room that was based on questions to ask yourself that focus more on how the space feels vs. how it looks.

Here’s an example from the chapter on kitchens and dining areas:

  • Is my kitchen easy to maintain and keep clean? Does it promote safety?
  • Is this a space I enjoy cooking in?
  • Are the tools I use most frequently easy to access?
  • Have I removed visual clutter from counters and surfaces?
  • Does my kitchen promote healthy eating habits?
  • Does this space encourage optimistic attitudes in the morning?
  • Does my dining room offer freedom to move about, rather than being cramped and cumbersome?
  • Does my dining area offer opportunity for meals together as a family – a place where we can recap the day?
  • Does my dining area encourage me to show hospitality to others?

Some of these questions are predictable and common sense (clean counters and surfaces, tools easy to access, etc.), but I was opened up to a new way of thinking about clutter when the questions became “is this a space I enjoy?” and “does the space promote optimistic attitudes?” and “does my dining area encourage hospitality?”

Suddenly the kitchen is no longer just another room to pass through on my way into the house after a long day, but the place I start a productive day with a healthy breakfast and the place that my partner and I feed each other and our friends. We actually enjoy hosting friends for dinner, and we’ve benefited from organizing our kitchen and the rest of our home in a way that makes the entire place feel more hospitable and welcoming.

Also throughout the book, Joshua includes stories from his readers and followers about the real-life ways minimalism has given them freedom. Freedom is a big theme of the book, whether it’s the freedom to travel, freedom of income when you stop spending so much on random stuff, freedom to whip up an impromptu scone because you know exactly where all the baking equipment is in your well organized kitchen. The combination of real life experience helps drive home the points that Joshua makes, because you can clearly see the tangible and intangible benefits of simplifying your space.

The chapter that made the biggest impact on me was about the home office. Having a simple and pleasant work space makes all the difference, whether you work from home or just need a place to pay the bills. I moved in with a partner about three months ago, and the whole house feels optimized… except the office. My desk has become a repository of stuff I haven’t dealt with yet. But I am an author and I work from home part-time for my day job, so I kind of NEED TO DEAL WITH IT. Joshua’s questions (“Does this space encourage me to focus on my work?” “Does this space invite me to enjoy the work I do?” “Is this space easy to maintain?”) forced me to acknowledge that I want to create a safe haven for my work so that I can feel better and more excited about sitting down to be creative. Thanks, Joshua.

After a room by room guide to minimizing, the book also includes a Minimalism Maintenance Guide, with tips on staying minimalist once you’ve pared down to a new baseline of simple living. This is often one of the hardest parts of minimalism, especially when you live with someone and must contend with other people’s possessions too.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Minimalist Home. It’s an easy read and very skimmable if you already know the basics and just need a refresher, but reading it closely will provide more context and a better feel for the why behind simplifying and de-owning possessions. The book is full of shareable bite-sized wisdom you can tweet or write down for later, such as “Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you have to fill it with stuff,” and it comes from a wonderfully approachable perspective. Anybody can start minimizing and creating their own minimalist home!

Keep up on where you can buy The Minimalist Home on Joshua Becker’s website. Many sellers are already out of stock!




Book Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life

It’s been a while since I did a post on decluttering and minimalism, and I am so excited to give a rave review of Dana K. White’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life. I downloaded it using the Hoopla app (which lets you use your library card to borrow six titles per month for FREE) and listened on my commute.

I’ve been through some stuff lately, y’all. I am moving for the second time in seven months. When I packed up and moved out of my ex-husband’s house, I realized that I was barely taking up space in that house. I’d pack my items up in each room and look at what was left behind, bewildered that it looked essentially the same. I had been trying to take up space for four years and though I’d hung art on the walls and organized the Pyrex containers the way I liked them, it never really felt like home.

With this move, I was determined to take up space and make my apartment a true home for myself filled with joy. I made a reading nook corner that I never used, I found the perfect chair at the Habitat for Humanity Store that I never sat in, and I used an air mattress as a couch because screw giant furniture. And I was happy there. Until I decided to move again ahead of schedule as part of Operation De-Stress.

Turns out, I still had stuff I didn’t use, need, or even want. Like the two sets of towels I received as wedding gifts that are still in their packaging. We got married over two years ago. Plus, some of the cute towels I bought when I moved in aren’t all that absorbent despite the fact that they match my bathroom theme. They’re in the donate box now. LuLaRoe clothing that I held onto for their resale value are just in the donate box. The white linen skirt I wore at my wedding, which I had planned to use in some piece of inspired transformative artwork, is in the donate box.

Because, hold up, this book has changed my life.

First of all, Dana K. White is the author of the blog A Slob Comes Clean, which started as an anonymous “practice blog” where she could confess her dirty house secrets. But then it turned out that a ton of other people related to her clutter woes and she ended up building a huge following and brand and I’ve consumed her books Decluttering at the Speed of Life and How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.

You should read these books if you have a messy home that you feel like you can never get out from under. Right now. Find them.

Here are the things Dana has taught me:

  1. The Visibility Rule: Start your decluttering project in the most visible places in your home. Where do you enter your home (and where do guests enter)? Look at your home as if you are a visitor and start decluttering the most obvious spaces. Clear your “slob vision” by looking at your home through new eyes.
  2. Don’t Pull Everything Out: I used to postpone decluttering because I wanted to go in KonMari style and do whole categories at a time. But I have other stuff to do, and I don’t always have the time or energy or wherewithal to pile every piece of clothing I own on the bed, touch it, and ask if it brings me joy. Dana helped me understand that I can declutter effectively without this en masse approach.
  3. The Container Concept and One In One Out: This is something I actually had done before, in my earliest days on the blog. I had a small bookshelf and decided I’d only keep the books that fit. The bookshelf was my container. But this method died a quick and painful death when I moved in with my “collector” ex, who had shelves upon shelves upon totes upon totes of books, technology, toys, hobby equipment, and clothes. And he was a shover. I cannot stand shoving. If a drawer is too full to close and needs shoved, there is a problem. Dana’s book reminded me that if there’s shoving, it’s time to remove something until the container is actually containing things.
  4. Start with Trash and Easy Stuff: Dana’s decluttering steps are so simple and obvious, I feel ridiculous that I never did it her way before. When you’re in your most visible space, start by throwing away or recycling the trash. Then look for Easy Stuff, things that obviously don’t belong in this space. Then…
  5. Take It There Right Now: Get rid of your Easy Stuff by putting it in its proper place as soon as you pick it up. Also, as you’re decluttering, ask yourself “Where would I look for this first?” and take it there RIGHT NOW. (MIND BLOWING – No “Keep” Boxes allowed).
  6. Donate the “Almost Perfect:” This one hit me so hard. If there’s something you keep around but don’t tend to use because you don’t like one thing about it, it’s time to say goodbye. This is what helped me let go of a super cute dress that didn’t fit right in the bust, as well as the aforementioned not-super-absorbent-but-really-cute towels. But now all my towels fit on one shelf in the linen closet with no more shoving!

There’s plenty more, but I really seriously want you to read her book. Also, she has a podcast. I am gonna die of excitement.

Book review: Eat, Pray, Love

My “just in case” items turned out to be unnecessary, as I did not lose power or any other utilities when Hurricane Sandy reached a rainy, stormy arm over Ohio – except for my internet.  The power was out in the town where I work, so I had an unexpected day off.  How great, I thought, I can clean the kitchen and start my Reverse 100 Things Challenge today!

And then I slept until 11am, had lunch with my partner in downtown Cleveland, and spent the entire afternoon and evening eating spaghetti, sleeping, and reading Eat, Pray, Love.

This is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it on my “Minimalist Reading List,” which thus far includes just one other book (Scratch Beginnings).  I’ll read Walden soon, though, and then I will have three.  Please recommend some!

According to the dust jacket, “By the time she turned thirty, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern, educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want – a husband, a house in the country, a successful career.  But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief and confusion.  She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love and the complete eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all of this, Gilbert took a radical step.  In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, left her loved ones behind and undertook a year-long journey around the world, all alone…

Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment.  It is also about the adventures that can happen when a woman stops trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals.  This is a story certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.”

I adore this book.  Easily one of my top five. 

By page eleven, I loved this woman and I was so excited to join her on her journey around the world.  Her adventure.  I wanted to learn from her and take wisdom from her experiences that I could not replicate (I do not possess the mental fortitude to just pack up and leave for a year).  And I did.  Her story is so wonderful, so full of growth and inspiration.

Having recently gone through my own divorce, I connected with her immediately, because I knew very well all of the feelings she was describing.  The guilt, the anger, the loss, the GUILT, the phantom thoughts, and let’s not forget the guilt.  I took solace in her spiritual journey and silently cheered when she found a place where she could let go of her ex-husband in the knowledge that her worldly part of their relationship was over and that their souls would take it from there.  I felt like her story could be my story.  You know, if I were a successful author with the means and willingness to leave everything behind and take a transcendent journey to peace, love, and self-knowledge.

Maybe I will, yet.  For now, this book is enough.  It’s got me thinking big-picture things.

I strongly encourage you to read it.  Let me know what you think!

Book review: Scratch Beginnings

While I was decluttering myself of half my possessions in the depths of my mother’s basement, my sister was doing likewise to prepare for our upcoming yardsale.  Ironically, my decluttering and newfound minimalism resulted in me picking up some of the things she was going through, including a couple of books that caught my eye.

One book, Scratch Beginnings, has a cover featuring a young man wearing an undershirt and cargo shorts next to an empty duffel bag, and the subtitle “Me, $25, and a search for the American Dream.” I was intrigued.

The book is a reflection on a one-year experiment done by Adam Shepard, who outlines his project in the introduction of the book:

Here is my premise:

I am going to start almost literally from scratch with one 8′ x 10′ tarp, a sleeping bag, an empty gym bag, $25, and the clothes on my back.  Via train, I will be dropped at a random place somewhere in the southeastern United States outside my home state of North Carolina.  I have 365 days to become free of the realities of homelessness and become a “regular” member of society.  After one year, for my project to be successful, I have to possess an operable automobile, live in a furnished apartment (alone or with a roommate), have $2,500 in cash, and, most importantly, I have to be in a position in which I can continue to improve my circumstances by either going to school or starting my own business (Shepard, p. xiv).

This is not a book that is, on its surface, about minimalism.  It’s about a guy overcoming his circumstances to get ahead and succeed.  However, right away, minimalist ideas were popping right off the page at me.

I am really, really frustrated with the poor attitudes that seem to have swept over my peer group.  Frustrated with hearing “I don’t have” rather than “Let’s see what I can do with what I do have” (Shepard, p. xiii).

Making the most of what you have is a great way to look at your life and your situation.  While Adam Shepard was working toward having more, it wasn’t for the sake of more, or the sake of stuff.  He was basically resetting his life and seeing if he could work to get the things he needed.  I think a side effect of this reboot was actually cherishing the things he had, having honestly worked to get them, and having suffered for them.  He did not work his way up from nothing to having a collection of sports memorabilia, or a wardrobe of clothes, or a library of books.  He worked his way up from nothing to have just what he needed to get by — a place to live, a car to drive to work, and enough savings to support him in case of emergency.

Lots of his observations struck a chord with me, including:

Who did I have to impress? As long as my pants could remain free from stains and odors, I didn’t care if I got caught wearing the same outfit every other day.  That’s what all of my new friends were doing (Shepard, p. 74).

A lot of us spend our lives living beyond our means.  We rack up credit card debt and spend money on material items and vacations that we can’t quite afford. … And we live in luxury homes and condos that we can’t even enjoy, because we have to work overtime to cover the mortgage payment. Why? (Shepard, p. 90).

So I would head to the bottom of the downtown peninsula and search for things to do.  Simple things.  Anything that didn’t cost money.  I was easy to please, and that alone alleviated the distress of what others might consider a disgraceful social life… (Shepard, p. 111).

Cheap?  Definitely.  But that’s how I had to be.  Every $5 and $10 I could save might not matter so much for that one day, but it would be so valuable in the long run (Shepard, p. 126).

While Scratch Beginnings is really a book about poverty and hard work and making positive changes, it definitely resonated with me as a minimalist.  The idea that it is possible to have a functional wardrobe, living situation, and social life without having to spend excessive amounts of  money on those things is a great lesson that can benefit everyone.

When you don’t have much, and everything you do have is a product of your own hard work and priorities and commitment, your possessions are that much more important.  Plus, you can avoid debt and break free of the overbearing consumerist culture we live in today.  This book made me think about my possessions and my life in a broader context.  I have so much, and some people have nothing (or close to it).  Why do I need all this stuff?  What is it doing for me?

I do recommend the book — it’s a quick read, and it really offers some food for thought about hard work, starting over, and whether or not we really need all this stuff to be happy and successful in life.

Have you read a book that spoke to you as a minimalist?